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They all want the same: leaders who listen and inspire as role models

Motivation by positive communication has an impact on diverse teams, too





Regardless how diverse members of a staff might be: In the end blue-collar and white-collar workers, young and old, women and men, locals and migrants all want the same to feel motivated: leaders who listen and inspire as role models. Simultaneously self-disclosure of superiors has much less impact on follower´s perception than previously thought. These are the partially surprising results of a new study conducted and published recently at the California State University.

What this means is cristal clear: acknowledgement, appreciation and support are needed by all employees independent of their very specific and individual personal backgrounds. The researchers argue that this is due to our intrinsic desire for quality relationships, quality that can be tapped excellently with Positive Communication.

“Followers´ Perceptions of Positive Communication Practices in Leadership: What Matters and surprisingly What does not”, Biganeh/Young, in: International Journal of Business Communication”, I – 20, Feb. 2021.


From the practice:

The results of this study are not that astonishing to me as apparently for the authors. After 22 years in the coaching business and with clients from 5 different areas – Western Europe, Eastern Europe, UK, US and Middle East – I dare to make a rather unscientific comment: all of us look for attention and affection. It is the detail where cultural differences pop up and have to be acknowledged: how fast, how direct and what sort of wording you use for motivating the staff.

Let me add some recommendations to the topics “listening” and “inspiring role model”: 1. Please find space and concentration when listening to employees. You cannot note key details with the utmost precision otherwise. 2. Please have in mind that as a leader you are constantly under observation. Lots of managers underestimate this aspect and are surprised after all what their teams conclude from their walk and talk unintentionally.



Anxiety increases with new threats in the pandemic

Communicating in scenarios gets more and more inevitable



Threats that keep a constant pace decrease in their dynamics. That´s why the Covid-19 pandemic scares us less than in its beginnings – we got used to it in a way. Changes in velocity and acceleration of the pandemic, though, may lead directly to an increase in anxiety again and this has a negative impact on our performance at work, too. These are the conclusions of a study an international research team at the University of Oklahoma has published recently. Transferring them onto the current new stressors that means: the rampant new mutations of the virus, the slow implementation of the vaccination strategy in the country and the difficulties in planning the economic situation furtheron push anxieties once again and lead after days of respective bad news to emotional exhaustion and less engagement of employees. The researchers recommend leaders in politics and economy to focus in their communication less on the pandemic as such but primarily on the new stressors.

“Anxiety Responses to the Unfolding COVID-19 Crisis: Patterns of Change in the Experience of Prolonged Exposure to Stressors”, Fu/Greco/Lennard/Dimotakis, in: Journal of Applied Psychology, 2021, Vol. 106, No. 1, 48–61

From the practice:

When it comes to communication there is for me only one strategy how to cope seriously with unpredictabilities AND walk up to understandable anxieties of people involved: to present scenarios. My clients share their best experiences with the use of three scenarios  – two being rarely sufficient and four being confusing again. What sort of characteristics the scenario determines, how and why it has developed and particularly who has to do what if it occurs – these are the ingredients of professional communication in scenarios which helps to make diffuse uncertainty calculable. To communicate in scenarios is an approach for all leaders who are willing to stick to the options for actions each of their scenarios will bring with – regardless which one becomes reality. On the contrary leaders who don´t want to bind themselves to an agenda, leaders who prefer to decide and move spontaneously will go in a completely different direction: towards ad hoc-management and ad hoc-communication. Ad hoc boosts anxieties, though – that´s not only common sense but now – indirectly at least – also confirmed by this new study.

Male and female managers enjoy leadership roles alike

Positioning of women in the working place improved





There are much less differences between male and female leaders than assumed – at least when it comes down to job satisfaction and well-being. Both genders do enjoy their roles on the top of the respective organization with pleasure, relatedness and competence as the key thriver. By contrast, the number of supervised people and years of experience are of minor importance. These are the results of a study the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, worldwide the largest university for air and space programs, has recently published.

The authors interpret the outcome a) as a symbol for improved positioning of women in the working place and b) as a success for equal rights meaning that women who lead are not plagued any more by stress, tough requirements or expectations pitched too high. Organisations which appeal to higher performance of superiors may (furtheron) emphasize diversity, inclusion and equity.

Frederick/Lazzara, „Examining Gender and Enjoyment: Do They predict Job Satisfaction and Well-Being?”, in: The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 2020, vol.23, Nr. 3 – 4, 163-176.




From the practice:

Yes, there is a similar development in my work with clients regarding the quantitatively as qualitatively improved positioning of female leaders: 75% of my clients have been men when I started this kind of business in 1999 – nowadays they are max. 50%. Does this shift resonate anyhow in the substance of my work? Not really. Challenges and solutions in leadership tasks are pretty similar. Still my observations and my guts tell that women on average do find it harder to talk about themselves positively. In hearings this might be a disadvantage from the very beginning. This is manageable, though! 8 out of 10 of my clients get their job since they succeed in the recruiting procedures. Not only, but also because they have conveyed a convincing balance between selfmarketing and coolness in their appearance and their communication.



Collegiality more important than expected

Treatment by superiors is mitigated by peers culture of fairness either way






Superiors may be fair or not: whether employees feel well treated depends largely on peers. If they are fair to each other, mistreatment by superiors is mitigated, if there is no culture of fairness within a team itself even good treatment by superiors is mitigated, too.

This is the conclusion a new study by the UCLA in collaboration with Columbia University is drawing. Why this matters? Because the level of fairness an employee is treated with points to his/her high or low standing in the organization which in turn results in a more or less motivated staff. This is crucial particularly in times of Corona & Zoom.

The researchers recommend leaders to pay attention to the fairness culture in their teams in their own interest: a) by being role models and b) by limiting violations of collegiality through fostering of ethics and a strong culture of cooperation.

Bendersky/Brockner, “Mistreatment from peers can reduce the effects of respectful treatment from bosses, and respectful peers can offset mistreatment from bosses”, in: Volume41, Issue8, Special Issue: Contextualizing Workplace Mistreatment, October 2020, Pages 722-736


From the practice:

I am hearing this pretty often: if one employee is treating peers unfairly a superior does not want to interfere. Because it´s not his/her business, because being the boss does not mean you are a parent, because a good superior does not want to be partisan, has to focus on relevant stuff and does not have time for game playing.

The truth is – at least due to countless coaching sessions over the past 20 years – that a lot of superiors tend to avoid non-factual arguments. Rather hoping that things will be solved by itself than to go between in this type of conflicts, seems to be the motto.

So the recent study might contribute to new perspectives: Yes, of course you have to intervene if employees are not treating each other fairly or correctly. If necessary you have to be very direct, as well. You are setting up together with the team some guidelines of fairness, are engaging as a sort of mediator in a meeting with all people involved or are offering coaching respectively. I do recommend: let it be part of your assessment whether any of your employees is sticking with or leaving behind any sort of unfair behavior towards peers. Otherwise your efforts are supposed to be not binding.


Confident voice compensates accent

Native speakers always score high when it comes to trust





Using confident voice compensates potential disadvantage due to the speaker´s accent. A powerful organ therefore is key whether people are granted trust or not. These are the results of recent experiments conducted by the McGill University, Montreal. In these experiments voice and language and their influence on trust building between English speaking Canadians, Australians and French were analysed. The ranking set forth is clear: doubtful voice always gets the worst results, even native speakers who seem to enjoy a basic benefit not speaking with any accent scored poorly with doubt in their voices.

The researchers point out, that to speak with accent obviously reduces trust and credibility even in the in-group. Even there in all phases of the experiments native speakers received the highest rates for trust.

Caballero/Pell, „Implicit effects of speaker accents and vocally-expressed confidence on decisions to trust”, In: Decision, Vol 7(4), Oct 2020, 314-331




From the practice:

I am glad about these results. 1. Because I am regularly asked by clients who don’t speak German as their mother tongue if and if yes, how problematic their accent is here in Austria and Germany. This question is on their mind particularly when they are preparing for a hearing or a presentation or when they are approaching a critical interview. 2. Because it´s good news for myself. I am glad to hear that with a confident voice I may also compensate potential disadvantages due to my German accent when dealing with English speaking clients. It goes without saying that I, too, want to be judged and evaluated based on my professionalism and not according to an accent.

What does “confident voice” mean in detail, though? To convey power and strength of course, but then first and foremost positive thinking, leadership and serenity.

Offers better than requests

First movers can screw up negotiations with the wrong framing






Opening negotiations with an offer will significantly more often succeed than wrapping the very same issue into a request. The offer focusses on potential gains, the request on the contrary on potential losses. Within 5 experiments the majority of 900 test subjects heavily stood up against the latter, whereas having been exposed to an offer they were motivated to be conciliatory. So the assumption that socalled first movers in negotiations were unlimitedly more assertive has been refuted. This was the key result of a recent study conducted by the University of Lüneburg in cooperation with Columbia/NY.

Lacking the right framing even those who set the anchor by articulating their intentions first can still screw up their negotiations.

“Open to offers, but resisting requests: How the framing of anchors affects motivation and negotiated outcomes”, Journal for Personality and Social Psychology, Sept. 2020, pg. 582-599.



From the practice:

It was never very charming when a negotiator started by confronting his/her interlocutors with a request. How often have I advised my clients to evade the pressure by simply not taking it if they were confronted with this technique?! These have been my recos: a) to speak up with their own request, b) to comment on a meta-level that this was such an unmoralic request and c) to ask in detail what sort of motivation lies behind the request so as to work with this offensively afterwards.

I do admit: I am happy to learn that the constructive method – to open with an offer – has now gained also the scientific seal of approval. Furthermore this approach not only satisfies by the ethic component but is much more efficient after all. You are saving with the offer-opening time, nerves and very likely also money.


With proactivity and cooperation scientists reach even underserved audiences

Mind the “openness-paradox”, though




If scientists want to reach with their data and facts even underserved audiences they have to pay attention to some more aspects in their communication than usually: a) to approach people proactively and b) to look for cooperation partners who are trusted by the groups yet. These can be institutions which are regularly dealing with them or opinion leaders within these groups who help to overcome barriers and fears. In addition to these findings a new article by the department of science communication at the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe (KIT) points out that whenever scientists are communicating to underserved audiences they should mind the so-called “openness paradoxon”, though: this happens when well-intended offers like to have a choice between various packages of information or to have the opportunitiy to question and comment in any moment might not satisfy, but overwhelm the target groups since they are culturally not used to that. Beside this anything which works with all lay people applies also to students in a vocational school, muslim youths with a migration background or socially disadvantaged people in marginalized neighborhoods which the scientists of Karlsruhe have analysed: Here scientists have to a) listen, b) facilitate the access of information, c) be relevant for everyday life and d) set longterm activities.

Humm, C/Schrögel, Ph., „Science for ALL? Practical Recommendations on Reaching Underserved Audiences”, in Frontiers in Communication, 7.7.2020, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcomm.2020.00042/full



From the practice:

Corona amplified the pressure onto researchers, particularly from the natural-scientific branch, to communicate their contents simply, eye-catchingly and still substantiatedly. Looking around among clients from universities or research institutes I do observe an interesting mixture between Hurray-mood – i.e. with the PR professionals (“Finally!”) and with those who have succeeded in front of a microphone yet (“That´s mine!”) – and a controversion between intellect (“Unfortunately we have to live with it – it has to be done”) and emotional defensiveness (“Still I don´t like it at all”) with those who have difficulties.

In this context scientists are in a couple of aspects a similar clientel to facts- and data-driven experts from different professional fields: lawyers, auditors or technicians, just to name a few. Still, the shyness regarding non-factual language can be dissolved pretty well because professional communication also works with factors like goals and structure. And the empathy needed for any target person or group we also elaborate on together

Gendered languages support indirectly prejudices against women

It´s the positive contextualization and the frequency



Prejudices against women do exist everywhere on this planet. They are significantly stronger, though, where language differentiates between men and women (gendered languages) regardless whether economic prosperity, religion or a numeric unbalance is being met in the respective culture. These are the results of a study recently published where for the first time 45 languages representing more than 50% of the world´s population have been compared and analysed.

Most essential: male terms (i.e. words with male articles) are being more positive contextualized and more frequently used where it is basically possible. The female aspect in these gendered languages is not given a serious chance. French and Russian demonstrate this phenomen „best“, German ranks in the middle range.

„How language shape prejudice against women: An examination across 45 world languages.“ DeFranza/Mishra/Mishra in: „Journal of Personality and Social Psychology“, 119 (1), S. 7-22.


From the praxis:

Language shapes culture and culture shapes language. Not to adapt anything in male oriented German is therefore fundamentally counteracting the equality of men and women. In this course due to my observations most of us consider the strategy of visualization where „in“ or „innen“ is added whereever possible as lengthy, sometimes even ridiculous when the neuter „Mitglied“ (member) becomes a female „Mitgliederin“. On the other hand the second strategy, neutralization, demands more creativity: „Mannschaft“ (workmanship) becomes „Team“ and „GeschäftsführerInnen“ (managers) is turned into „Geschäftsleitung“ (management).

Still I don´t see any alternative: who is persistently struggling to integrate half of the population into her/his language, supports a traditional mindset of society. Usually I recommend to follow both strategies given: „in“ and „innen“ wherever it is easily done, but to favor „Studierende“ over „StudentInnen“ (which in the natural gendered language English is covered by a not-gendered word only: students). Finally: please delete the word „man“ (one) out of your vocabulary. You not only contribute to the quality of gender, but make your language clearer and preciser. Since „man“ simply concerns nobody.

Leaders don´t plan and steer meetings effectively

Only 16% have policies how and when to use powerpoint



Leaders make it too easy when blaiming powerpoint alone for their bad meetings. It is the lack of their professional planning and steering, which results predominantly in the lack of effectiveness. Hence there is a huge deficit when it comes to the strategic question how and when powerpoint is to be used in the business world: referring to a recently published US-study 84% of the organisations involved don´t have anything like a policy for the usage of powerpoint and authorize with their eyes open that topics are presented complex, lengthy and hostile to dialogue.

What an enormous potential is waiting to be kissed awake when 55 million meetings which cost more than 1 trillion USD take place annually and in parallel 70% of the participants do consider them not productive. The scientists recommend managers to initiate change at themselves and to think about strategies for added values in their meetings instead of a trivial powerpoint bashing.



From the practice:

For years I am annoyed how pretty quickly organizations of any kind try to push their efficiency by cost cuttings and dismissals. Instead of changing their bad meeting cultures sustainably. Huge amounts of time, money and nerves could be saved to the benefit of all, I am deeply convinced. To bring the overkill of ppt onto more professional tracks is only part of that, though a part with which you may start right now:

  1. Anticipate before your meeting if ppt is the best tool at all. Flipcharts, demos, interviews or videos might bring content equally to the point, but foster dialogue tremendously better.
  2. Issue that no presentation in any meeting is to be longer than 10 minutes and should consist of not more than max. 5 slides including the start and the end.
  3. Encourage your team to present the key messages of their presentation right at the beginning in one single minute. This procedure supports a clear focus and makes the presentation more interesting.

And I hope it goes without saying that you as the superior are leading by example, isn´t it?

Please look directly into the camera!

Worldwide 1. study surveys eye contact in different settings





Direct gaze generates always the highest emotional response – in personal meetings as well as in online telcos even more than via videos or in webinars. SCR (Skin Conductance Response) and facial muscle activity were measured – both crucial parameters for determining emotional reactions. These results can be taken as evidence that regardless whether you communicate in person or by any video online tool, there will be significant emotional impact. Regarding the difference to the data of one-way-media the researchers explain: To be seen or be observed, leads to more emotional arousal, whether it is stress or joy, in contrast to moments with presenters of videos or webinars on our screens where we know that we cannot be seen or observed.

The Finnish authors describe their paper as the worldwide 1. Study of eye contact in different settings.

„Psychophysiological responses to eye contact in a live interaction and in video call“, Hietanen/Peltola/Hietanen, in: Psychophysiology, April, 22nd, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1111/psyp.13587.





From the practice:

Where do you look at when talking to people? Into their eyes or somewhere left, right or behind them, into the camera or onto the notes you have prepared? The correct answer is: whenever you want to score emotionally – negatively or positively – you should directly look into your interlocutor´s eyes. There is no too much here! Only a too little! Please rearrange in these Corona times your screen so that you can look into the camera easily. Two additional recos: 1. In Telcos please have a look from time to time still onto your interlocutor if you don´t want to miss important signals of body language. 2. In videos and in webinars please be in the picture instead of your ppt: in the beginning, at the end and when you are delivering your key messages. Otherwise people cannot see your eyes well enough in these emotionally decisive moments.

The worst you can do is to look frequently onto your notes. We are – again as so often – ending up finally with professional preparation…….

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