Evidence-Based Leadership with Dr. Scott Dust

Scott B. Dust, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Management in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University (Oxford, OH). Dr. Dust is also the Chief Research Officer for Cloverleaf, a company whose technology helps organizations create better teams. His teaching, writing and consulting focus on evidence-based perspectives for leading oneself and others.  In addition to teaching, he leads evidence-based management workshop, has published over 20 peer-reviewed articles, and is a contributor for Psychology Today.


Website: https://www.scottdust.com

LinkedIn: Scott Dust

Twitter: scott_dust

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgVrB6DdggVILESe4ZjFtTA

Assessments: https://cloverleaf.me/

Inside This Episode

  • The Rise and Fall of Transformational Leadership
  • Adapting Your Leadership Style To The Times
  • What Is Ethical Leadership?
  • The Power of Being a Mindful Leader
  • The Future of Leadership
  • Employee Emotional Exhaustion & Signs of Burnout
  • Role Modeling Culture (They’re Always Watching)
  • Measuring The Effectiveness of Leadership Styles
  • Cultivating Productive Conflict
  • How to Avoid Group Think
  • The Effectiveness of Multi-Leader Teams
  • Flow and Peak Performance
  • Being vs. Doing Paradox
  • The Necessity for Emotional Intelligence

John Ryan
You're listening to key conversations for leaders. This is episode number 27. Welcome everybody. In today's episode, we're going to be discussing evidence based leadership with Dr. Scott dust will be covering employee emotional exhaustion and signs of burnout, cultivating productive conflict, the effectiveness of multi leader teams flow and peak performance and much, much more.

John Ryan 0:26
In times of great change, we need great leaders, those willing to step up to take responsibility to create a vision and inspire others to join them in fulfilling that vision. A key part of that is having conversations with yourself and those who lead. That's what the show is about better conversations for better leaders.

John Ryan 0:49
Hey everybody and welcome to key conversations for leaders. I'm your host Sean Ryan and today we have a very special guest, Dr. Scott dust. Scott is an Assistant Professor of Management in the Farmer School of Business at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and Dr. Das is also the chief research officer for cloverleaf, a company whose techno technology helps organizations create better teams, and his teaching, writing consulting focus on evidence based perspectives for leaning oneself and others. In addition to teaching, he leads evidence based management workshops, has published over 20 peer reviewed articles, and its contributor for psychology today. Welcome to the show. Scott, great to have you here.

John Ryan 1:29
Scott, if you don't mind, I'd love to start out by finding a little bit about your story and how you really first became involved in understanding and teaching about leadership.

Scott Dust 1:40
Sure, so when I graduated with a business degree, it was actually in management entrepreneurship. And I was working for a family business and I really actually first fell in love with big data. And I was doing some actuarial consulting, corporate entrepreneurship initiative for them. I just kind of wanted to change industries. And so when I did my MBA, my favorite classes were the leadership and the organizational behavior classes. And so I also really enjoyed working with the professors when I was there. And so it was like a way getting my PhD in organizational behavior was a way to kind of marry the two. It was I was really interested in leadership. I'm a leadership geek at heart. But I also like to big data. So when I did the PhD and management work behavior, then I was able to teach and research and consult on leadership when I was done. In going through a number of your articles, and you certainly have written a ton, and you've been teaching for quite a long time, you have a lot of different themes that it sounds like that you like to geek out on. And one of them is is this concept called transformational leadership. Would you mind telling us a little bit about what transformational leadership is and how it relates to employee behaviors? Yeah, sure. So it actually there's two interesting questions here. One is what is it and why is it important but then than ever, how does it lead to employee outcomes. But the other is that interestingly, recently, there's been like a dead stop in research interest about the concept, which I think brings in another interesting angle.

Scott Dust 3:09
So transformational leadership is a leadership style or set of behaviors that facilitates this ability for employees to go above and beyond. And so it's about idealized influence, inspirational motivation, individual consideration and intellectual stimulation. And so, for 40 years, up until about 10 years ago, it was researched a ton. I mean, it was like the number one leadership style being addressed. And it made sense it was a motivational leadership concept. But eventually there was some scathing articles that were really essentially saying it's so broad that it actually doesn't mean a whole lot. Right. So arguably, those four leadership dimensions that I mentioned, are par for the course on what a leader should be doing regardless and so Then became this kind of stop start situation where we have all this research about transformational leadership. But it's so broad that doesn't really carry a whole lot of meaning. And so now people are actually focusing more on more specific, narrow type of leadership styles, mindful, mindful leadership, paradoxical leadership, adaptive leadership, ethical leadership. So it's interesting to see how things kind of fall out of Vogue partially because our interests change as a society, transformational leadership made sense during that era of the work environment, but now it's changed a little bit and we're more interested in like the humble servant, open minded leader at this point.

John Ryan 4:41
Is that important for leaders to do to evolve with the culture and the idea of what's relevant at the time?

Scott Dust 4:50
It's a great question. So it's like, what makes more sense? adjust to your culture and the situation or be yourself or told both. So which is it And really there's no perfect answer to it. But I do think it's important to have that. And you I think articulated as well is this contingency mentality of recognizing what's going on. And one way to think of it is this situational theory of leadership where you have the individual, you have the follower or set of followers, and then you have the context, right? And that might be the industry in your organization, whatever the situation is, and you really kind of have to think of it as a Venn diagram of, Okay, what do I do, given those three components? Who I mean, I really can't act out of character in the way that I lead. If it's too far out of character, then it's going to flop. But at the same time, you have to recognize what the followers and context needs in order for it to work. So unfortunately, there's no perfect answer.

John Ryan 5:49
Well, that in itself becomes situational, right, adapting to the situation, that you're in a couple of other terms that you mentioned there. paradoxical leadership. And and also ethical leadership. Can we unpack a little bit about what those two are as well?

Scott Dust 6:06
Yeah, absolutely. So I'll start with the ethical leadership because that's actually been done quite a lot in academic literature. And it has two different components. Ethical leaders embody both being a moral person, as well as being a moral manager. The moral person aspect is more specific to Are they a good person? Are they trustworthy? Do they do the right things in a day to day maybe even in their personal life type behavior, the moral manager is more about their approach to motivating and ensuring their people do what they need them to do. So for example, they're very much focused on the process and not the product per se. So maybe the antithesis would be somebody that is a bottom line mentality, leader, just get get it done by all means necessary, which can be problematic because a lot of times the final results are only partially dependent upon your behaviors. I look at the COVID scenario, you're really not ensure you're really not in control of this social economic environment that you're embedded within. So what makes more sense as a leader, as an ethical leader is to say, as long as you do the right things, you focus on the process, and you genuinely go into it with good intent, then sure, you're going to be rewarded, and you're going to, in my eyes be doing the right thing as a follower. So ethical leaders have a little bit of a different view on what exactly should be done. It's about the process, not necessarily about the product. And that can be motivational, right? Wouldn't you prefer to work for somebody that recognizes that context recognizes that you are still doing the right things and you're doing your best regardless of whatever happens in the long term outcome. So that can be important. Now mindful leadership is a little bit newer, at least in the academic literature, So mindfulness, and we can talk about different states of conscience. tenseness and get into that later. But mindfulness is really just present moment attention and awareness. You can look at it as a state. But you could also look at it as a trait. And so the research is saying those leaders that are higher on traits, mindfulness, they have a higher tendency to be present in the moment, they then have certain types of behaviors that they're going to engage in. And the research today is suggesting things like they're more empathetic, they're more likely to engage in perspective taking, they're more likely to make systematic decisions as opposed to intuitive decisions that might be over generalized or have some degree of cognitive bias or something like that. So it's still in its infancy from a research perspective, but there's tons of books on it and about it. So it's kind of to be determined on what exactly does that mean, because usually leadership comes from a behavioral perspective. But mindfulness is a state or a trait So what exactly does that mean when manifested in terms of behaviors?

John Ryan 9:04
So a couple interesting. A lot of interesting things there, of course, so But you said that being mindful in the moment obviously increases empathy, I can see that, but actually leads to more systemic thinking versus intuitive thinking, or did I have that backwards?

Scott Dust 9:18
I would say it's more systematic in that you are really trying to think through and not be judgmental, and jump to can jump to conclusions too quickly and come to assumptions that are maybe premature. So it is a good thing to be more mindful, and that you recognize that sometimes you you don't know the answer. And I think that might actually be an outcome that might bear itself out. And the research is that more mindful leaders don't assume that they have the correct answer. Or they don't assume that they know best, they're willing to listen and they're willing to engage in dialogue and admit that they don't know the answer. And that gets into the humble leadership construct a little bit as well, that essentially says, you know, I'm not perfect, I'm sure that I'll get some great ideas from my colleagues or my supervisors or from my subordinates. And wouldn't it make more sense to slow down and be systematic and really have an open mind?

John Ryan 10:21
It seems like there's a trend from the top down hierarchical, traditional leadership, to more of a person centered employee centered humility, being present and being mindful servant leadership mindset, is that continuing across the board, or are there other things that are going in a different direction perhaps? I think this gets interesting.

Scott Dust 10:45
That's a great question. I think it gets back a little bit to that transformational leadership conversation where the nature of the environment in the 70s 80s 90s, early 2000s, when that construct was a heyday had its heyday. The type of The goals of organizations were really about trying to maximize productivity, and how do we make as much profit as possible, given the resources that we have. It was about growth. And now, it's a little bit more granular. And now we live in a more complex society with more inputs and more different perspectives, arguably, employees are more independence. They can design their own set of circumstances, it's more flexible work environment. So it has changed to the point where society demands that. And so therefore, the leadership styles that we're interested in is now more closely associated with what those followers needs are. And they say to say it a different way. You know, think about this with organizations. They are their job is to adjust to whatever their customers need at any one set of circumstances. Right. If they say this is what I think you should have, that's not going to work. You have to listen to the customers. Same thing with leadership, we got to listen to the followers. And the followers are somewhat of a product. I say followers, that's kind of an academic term. It's just the subordinates are the employees or team members, they are more of a product of the social environment, their expectations are molded by the circumstances that we find ourselves in. So I do think that's a trend. And it's partially because in our social environment has changed.

John Ryan 12:24
There definitely are major differences between how businesses run now between they were in the 1980s, my my MBA program, I remember the purpose of the organization is to maximize shareholder value. That was the academic and it stuck in my head for a very long time. And, and it seems like that's shifting significantly because the internal customer, the employees are wanting something different the conscious organizations are developing. And so I hear what you're saying is that you're responding to your customer both externally and internally. Because if you don't, then there's going to be a mismatch. You're gonna have turnover and disengagement and all those things are going to happen. In that engagement factor so important because one of things I know you write about is the idea of employee emotional exhaustion. Can you talk a little bit about you know, what causes employee emotional Gasman? And excuse me exhaustion? And what can really be done about it?

Scott Dust 13:17
Yeah, and especially right now, that's an important topic, right? We have so much going on. And the work environment is super challenging, because of COVID, that there's more arguably more emotional exhaustion going on. And what that is, so emotional exhaustion actually was part of the burnout literature. And it is one of the burnout dimensions, but it became almost like the most important one, I'd say that in quotations in that it became the focus. When people think about burnout, they think about emotional exhaustion. And that's when you only have the capacity to manage and think about and do so much from an emotional processing perspective, until you're just depleted. Right? It's this sense of emotional depletion. So where does that come from? Well, anytime you're embedded in a, in an environment, you almost can think of it as like, like a bucket, or you can only handle so much water, and a little bit more gets put in a little bit more gets put in a little bit more gets put in until you reach that threshold where you just can't hold any more. And then when that happens, because of the all the things going on in your environment is too much, then you start to withdraw. And you start to feel this lack of energy in this lab and this lack of vigor, and that is when emotional exhaustion is manifesting for that individual. And so what can managers actually do about it to try and prevent that or mitigate it once it actually does take place? There's there's a variety different models, but this fits within the stress literature really well. And I think the number one maybe simple approach is to think about it in terms of demand control. In support, the demand control support model would say, number one, you need to try and reduce the demands on that individual. Because clearly, they can't handle all the stuff that's going on. And maybe that's a matter of pushing away tasks, maybe that's a matter of helping them reprioritize. And then also giving them more control is the second aspect. So give them the autonomy give them the discretion to figure things out in ways that are suitable for them. So as managers, our instinct is to try and help by kind of parsing it out for people, but instead give them the bandwidth to say no, you can as long as you accomplish XYZ objective, do it however you see fit, so give them more control. And then the third one is support and that support can be in the form of emotional support, just helping them cope and think through things. Or it can be more structural type support, giving them more time giving them more resources, whether it be through some type of system or software or an assistant or something along those lines. So when you start to see signals of emotional exhaustion, reduced demands, increased control, increased support. What are some of those signals that that P managers encounter that gives the manager feedback? Hey, they're on that burnout spectrum there, they're getting to the threshold of that bucket. Right? You know, what's interesting about that is when you a lot of times those signals are subtle, and you allow them they're nonverbal. And so big challenge is that when you only see somebody, maybe you see your, your subordinate, for example, once a day on a 20 minute zoom, your window of opportunity to see those has shortened and as well the richness of communication because it's virtual, or because it's just a phone call is minimized. And so it's becoming harder and harder to see those signals than what it was before. And you'll start to see those whether it's through comments or whether it's through just a lack of energy or lack of interest, but I would encourage managers, at least in these scenarios, in particular, to push and ask, and when they say everything's fine to ask again. And if they're still not opening up or admitting what their challenges are, no matter how severe or minor they are. Another option is to start exposing your own challenges, because employees tend to role model the behaviors of their leaders. So there's what's called social learning theory that would suggest that we are more likely to look up to role model those in hierarchical positions, because that signals the types of behaviors that we should be engaging in, in order to move up because if they are in a higher position, and that's what you should be doing, and so if you do it yourself, admitting and talking through some of your challenges, they might be more likely to do it as well.

John Ryan 17:48
So in that sense, the the mindful leader being authentic, having integrity, having the ethical leadership role modeling those things, also passes that down. Not I guess intentionally just by byproduct of the social learning theory that you're talking about, right?

Scott Dust 18:05
Yep, they call it the trickle down model, where you start to see the, at each level of the organization, people start to mimic the behaviors of whatever is going on for the people above them. And it will go down anywhere between three and four levels, right? So CEO, to top management team, to senior managers to lower level managers, there is evidence to suggest that for a lot of leadership approaches and styles, you start to see some correlations at each different level across time. And so that's why it's so important that you be really careful of what you're doing, because, believe it or not, they're watching and even if they don't notice it, from a conscious perspective, subconsciously, they're picking up on the way that you interact and influence others. That's what culture is right? It's not just what you say you do. It's what you actually do and what you role model for other people. How important is it in a large organization for the top brass to be role modeling? What They want everyone in the culture to embody. The higher up you go, the more important it becomes. Because it's that sense of, for whatever reason, the hierarchy becomes a proxy for level of importance. Right? So if the person above you is doing it, then clearly they're doing something, right, because they're in a, a, quote unquote, better position than you. And so the higher up you move, the higher up that priority system becomes. So yeah, I mean, researches is bearing this out in many different ways and in many different models, that that CEO role in top management team role becomes the biggest indicators of what you should be doing. You know, I'm curious, so how, how does one evaluate the different styles of leadership and approaches that exists in terms of like ethical leadership, mindful leadership and like, can you compare them or are they apples to oranges or is there some objective way to, to really break that down and evaluate it? There there is. So a lot of these leadership styles behaviors have established measures or questionnaires that are used a lot in in, in the academic literature. Interestingly, and this is unfortunate because journal articles are behind the paywall. So in the copyright is owned by those publishers, so are the measures that are within those journal articles where they established those measures and questionnaires. However, it doesn't mean that you can't get ahold of them, you can simply ask the author, you know, is this something that I can see and then I can potentially use or maybe even get advice on versions of that specific measure to roll it out within your own company. And so this is one of kind of my pet peeves about, you know, this differentiation between what goes on in practice versus what goes on in academia because of incentives and because of the different language and the different purpose really advancing science versus helping an organization or helping people within an organization, you know, there are two different goals and they don't always intersect the way that they should. And that's kind of what I'm on a mission to try and try and do is to help organizations understand that there are established constructs out there that you can use, or versions of them that you can use within your organization that are already established, reliable and valid. And you could implement to try and investigate the degree to which different individuals within your organization are transformational or ethical or mindful, or whatever it might be. And, you know, these are measures that can easily be and quickly be rated and evaluated. I actually do this for all of my students that undergrad in MBA level, where I have them do assessments on themselves on their different leadership styles. And then I have them work with a team throughout the entire semester, and then about two thirds of the way through the semester. I have their team members rate them on the exact same leadership styles. And then I give them back the data and I say okay, Here's what you said about yourself. Here's what your team members, the aggregation of what they said about you on the same dimension or same leadership style. And I give them back all that data. And I say, what does that mean? Right? Does this mean that you really are or you really aren't? And does this mean that there's some kind of challenge here on how you perceive yourself in it ends up being a fantastic self awareness and other awareness exercise? It's super important for personal development and leadership development. In organizations rollout to some degree things that are similar, they seem to focus more on performance with like 360 degree feedback, where this is more focused on just helping the individual improve their self awareness with respect to leadership.

John Ryan 22:40
Is there a correlation between the way the students receive that feedback and what you find in the workplace with the 360s?

Scott Dust 22:46
And so I don't have the data to cross the two at this point. But what I can illustrate at least in preliminary findings is that those that are more accurate in their interpretations and not just whether they They recognize that they were high, but also whether they were high, medium or low. Right. So the accuracy, regardless of the level on those leadership traits, is associated with some of the academic objective outcomes that I have like GPA and performance in the class, which is, you know, it's a, it could be argued as a proxy for performance in the workplace. Very interesting. Yes. So, you know, in evaluating your peers evaluating your boss, right, that's, that's a tricky thing in itself. And it's helpful because you get a bunch of data points. And one data point doesn't tell the picture, but all of them together can get you a better picture of what's going on as a proxy of the of the actual object of your investigation with do conflicts, like how important are conflicts in a company because I think you know, absence of conflict means that nothing changes and nothing adapts like is conflict, something to be encouraged. Is this something to be avoided? Right, great question. So, john, there's two different types of conflicts. And I think this is like the most important part of that puzzle. There's task conflict, and there's relationship conflict. We don't want relationship conflict, that's more attacking the person that's more attacking the character or their style or their approach. We don't want that. We want people to be accepting of people, no matter who they are, and how they operate. And recognize that nobody's perfect as well, right? We're all human, and we're all gonna make mistakes. What is good is task conflict. It's focused on the process. It's it's focused on the decisions. It's focused on arguing through the implications of assumptions and different variables and inputs for that specific decision. That's good, that actually is beneficial. That's going to flesh out groupthink, and that's going to flush out bad decisions and all those in all those things. There's a there's a theory out there called constructive comment. Darcy and I talked about this with organizations all the time in with my students all the time. And constructive controversy can actually be. You can use interventions to try and promote this concept or promote this approach of constant constructive controversy. And it essentially it goes like this, you have a decision. And you do not allow everybody in the room or the team or whoever's trying to come up with the decision, an opportunity to tell you what their initial thoughts are on that specific decision. Before you assign and say, okay, half over here, you're responsible for arguing and coming up with recommendations for approach a, and use and you guys over here, you're going to think through approach B. And so regardless of what your initial thoughts, thoughts are, and we're going to have you flesh all that out, and then come back together, and we're going to have a discussion, where we're going to debate the merits So option A versus option B. And then at the end, we have a reconciliation process where we say, Okay, now we're going to integrate all of this insight and then come up with preferred solutions, or decisions on option A versus option B, that process of it doesn't really matter what your intuition is. Because when you when you expose your intuition, especially if you're in a position of power, you're the most experienced, you're the team leader, or you're the manager, as soon as you say it. everybody's like, Oh, yeah, me too, because they want to make sure that they're in the good graces of whoever is the superior on quotes in that in that position.

Scott Dust 26:38
So ideally, you mitigate that type of thought process, and you encourage this constructive controversy process that could eventually flesh out a better mode of decision making. So you literally are creating a structure for the exercise that avoids groupthink and also the just going along with the boss just because they have more experiences. And then the position and all that. That's right in the in the pushback, usually when you get an organizational settings is Oh, that's all good and well, but we just don't have time for that. Well, it's not meant to be for every possible decision. If it's a big enough strategic decision, then yeah, you should probably slow down and take that effort, you know, to make sure you create that type of scenario. But even in smaller decisions, you could apply the same thinking as a mindset, or a way of going about discussions. It's, hey, we don't really know want to know your opinion off the bat. Instead, what we really want to know is what are the pros and cons of the different directions. Once we've fleshed all that out first, then let's talk about potential solutions, right? So you could actually still apply this scenario to more micro level decision making. So at the end of that, if you don't mind me asking more details on that on that structure. So you have group a group B, then they come together and they discuss the pros and cons. And then is that is that a group decision about where they should go? Is the leader put a stamp on it? How does that resolve itself? It depends. There's also Lots of different ways you can do it, you know, it's you could make it a fully democratic process where you all vote, you could all do a process where you vote blindly, so you don't see it. You could essentially appoint people as the decision makers after they've seen all the information. And I would say for the most part, what ends up happening is whoever is the team leader who's ultimately responsible for the final product, for the final deliverable, they'll end up being the ones that's going to say, you know, I'm going to take all this into consideration, but I really have to be the one that kind of implement the decision. And that's fine, as long as they go into it with an open mind and recognize that, you know, I'm not going through this process just to impress my team members or subordinates. I'm legitimately going through this process because I want to make a good decision. So it sounds like you're really going in with the tension of the biases that exists individually and as groups and you're finding that balance between time effectiveness and efficiency somewhere in the middle that's going to work for you based on your situation, as A great way to put it absolutely the continuum, not a dichotomy. I like that. Because Because then you can. The other issue is that that I know you've also written about, which is the the multi leader teams. And you know, one thing that really comes up is, you know, too many cooks in the kitchen and and how does that work? And is that efficient? So what are you finding in in the literature, the research around the effectiveness of multi leader teams? Oh, it's such a fun topic and fascinating topic. I've written about this a lot with Jonathan zeiger, who's a professor at Drexel University where I did my PhD. And he and I have done a few different papers in trying to illustrate the benefits as well as the cost of what could be called multi leader teams. A lot of times in the literature, it's called shared leadership. Sometimes it's collective or distributed leadership, all those terminologies are applied. But essentially, it looks like this. You have a team of four or five and no one is hierarchy really arranged as Being a superior. So you're a team. But within that team at any one point in time, someone might emerge as the leader or be assigned to be the leader. So what's the best way for that to operate in order to increase effectiveness? And there are so many different variations of what multi leader teams should look like that it can get a little, get a little complex and a little a little squirrely, arguably, when you when you want to implement shared leadership is when you have good diversity in the group of different talents and different skills and different backgrounds, so that different people can step up at different times and take the leadership depending upon the circumstance at hand. And then additionally, additionally, what you want is everybody within that team engaging in a claiming and granting process that's relatively seamless, where I'm good stepping up and claiming a leadership role when the time is right. But I'm also more than happy to grant the leadership to somebody else when the time is right.

Scott Dust 31:02
And that takes being very in tune with what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are, from a leadership perspective, as well as from a knowledge, skill and ability perspective. So I might be good at leading when it comes to navigating and setting the strategic direction. But I'm not a good leader when it comes to organizing and operationalizing, the logistics, I need to know that from a leadership influence perspective, but I also need to know where I add value. I'm a data guy, but I'm not a presentation guy or something like that. So understanding those types of elements is what's going to increase the likelihood that having shared leadership will actually work, which can be a good thing, because when you do get shared leadership to work, arguably, you're going to get better outcomes because people are contributing ways that are more fulfilling as well as things that are their strengths right as opposed to the person stepping up and doing it that they just did it because they want to look like the leader and be a leader right. So it has has great potential. But there's also a lot of caveats in there.

John Ryan 32:03
Is that being used widely to your knowledge at this point,

Scott Dust 32:07
I would say people are probably using it to some degree, they just don't know they're using it. But I think adding some terminology to it and starting to parse about when parse out when it works and why it can work or not work is going to be helpful to make sure people do it. Right. Right.

Scott Dust 32:21
There's some really extreme examples out there. For example, Zappos for years used what they called a holacracy is another is another term for it. I don't think I don't even know if they use it anymore. But for a while, that was kind of a thing where there are no bosses, everybody's appear everybody's a colleague. Another great example is Morningstar, a tomato processing plant out in California. they've written some great cases, about the operations and how they made it work. The owner of the company started the self Management Institute. And that's an interesting resource to check out worth. That's kind of the extreme. there literally is no manager, no hierarchy, you decide what your Gonna do everyone's appear. But then there has to be a process to try and parse out, well, who does what? Like because the benefit of a hierarchy is that they can make sure that it's efficient, but at the same time, that might not necessarily be fulfilling. So again, it's a balancing act. And it depends on the strategic goals of the organization. So instead of using the hierarchy to direct the process, you're actually relying on the commitment to the rules of the game, the structure that you have, and that can actually lead to a more effective outcome because not limited to the skills and resources of the leader, but of the the best of the best entire team plus it gives the leadership development opportunities for everyone. That's right. That's absolutely and there's also another balancing act opportunity and I think they call it informs I don't know what that stands for, but you can basically have a mechanistic company at certain levels, but then you can also have pockets and more organic shared leadership going on, right? So you can still have structure. But within some of those structures at the department level or within the team level, you can still encourage more of these organic shared leadership structures like that.

John Ryan 34:12
So and I think one of the prerequisites you kind of mentioned, though, was really having a high performing team having a sense of self and having really trust and relationships in that group, I imagine is very important. So you're not just jockeying for position, you're actually doing for the betterment of the of the project, the team, the organization, right takes a lack of a lack of ego, per se, to really make sure that works. Exactly. Yeah. Speaking of which, I want to I want to bring it I know one of your passions also is the idea of flow. And it's linked to workplace workplace performance. I'm a big fan of flow, you know, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi work, and I don't know if you're, if you're also into his work and how come for the audience, can you talk a little bit about what flow is and how you can bring that in as an image And can also exist in a team function.

Scott Dust 35:03
For sure. I love this topic. And I think one way to help understand what flow is, is to talk about it a little bit more broadly in terms of, there's four states of consciousness. Eric Dane has done a good job, I think creating this two by two to help understand the different states of consciousness that could be applied in a work setting. So you have present moment attention, it could be low or it could be high. When you're in flow, your present moment attention is very high.

Scott Dust 35:34
And then you also have this sense of your attention being very narrow or being very wide. With flow, your attention is very narrow. So Time flies by your your abilities are a perfect match for the demands of the situation. And you are just cranking it out and Time flies by so you're so narrowly focused, and your attention is narrow that you just aren't paying attention to the deals. That is One of our most productive states for deep thinking, right? If you're writing, if you're, if you're coding, if you're trying to solve a very complex problem, that's the type of mindset that is super helpful. And it's, it feels good. And you're, you're getting a lot done. And so ideally, we should be setting ourselves up for as much opportunity as possible to get into flow, whether it's managing our schedule, managing the people around us to stay away when we're trying to get into flow, or whatever it is. So the more opportunities you can create for yourself to engage in flow throughout the workday is going to be helpful. But there's also other states of consciousness within that two by two, one of them we've already talked about, which is mindfulness. That's also present moment attention, but it's a wide attention. Right?

Scott Dust 36:46
So you're, you're being present, but you're also very focused on all the environmental stimuli happening within your environment. That type of state of consciousness is very helpful when you're interacting with others when you're trying to see the big picture yet also So take notes and you're trying to engage with people, but at the same time you're trying to think through what's the next steps, right? That's hard. You have all sorts of different things going on. And you have to be open and aware of everything going on in your situation. The ones that are not good, the states of consciousness unproductive are just ruminating in and thinking about the past or fantasizing and thinking about the future. So that's narrow thinking as our narrow state of consciousness. But it's not necessarily helpful, right? You're, you're not being you're not being present and focusing on the current moment thing about past or future. And then mind wandering is the fourth, where you're all over the place. You're not president, but you're also kind of jumping around everywhere. That is our is our default state of consciousness, mind wandering. And the more we can bring it back to being more mindful or being in flow, the happier we'll be and the more productive we'll be so great study in science by killingsworth. that talks about mind wandering a A non mind wandering mind is a happy mind. A non mind wandering mind is a happy mind. Why is that? Well, the research they did was it really interesting. They did a, a study where everyone had an app on their on their phone, and they would ping them at random times through the day. And they'd ask them three questions. What are you doing right now? How happy are you? And were you paying attention to what you were doing right now. And so we don't necessarily know the mechanisms involved as to why but we do know pretty clearly that no matter what you're doing, it didn't matter if you're working, working out eating. talking with someone about a complicated subject didn't matter. As long as you were present. you're focused on that specific conversation and not mind wandering about something else. You were much happier. And then interestingly, also, we are mind wandering The vast majority of our day no matter what task we're doing and all task except one, and that's making love that was it.

John Ryan 39:07
Okay. There you go. It's assignment for everyone who's listening. There you go. Okay. So with those four states of consciousness, I want to make sure I can kind of recap those as best I can. So I know we have mind wandering, and then we have the the ruminating part that's like the negative states. On the other side of that two by two, you said, we have flow in mindfulness are those other two, okay? So they're, they're different. So flow is when you're absorbing, you're so absorbed in what you're doing, that you're the narrow band of focus and like in your skin, it's in your skill set. The mindfulness is not when your internal it's more when your external focused on what's happening externally. So it's an outside focus, but it's also a narrowband focus into this present moment. Am I getting that correct?

Scott Dust 39:56
Yeah, I would say it is present moment. But it's present moment for a wide attentional breath, where flow is present moment on a narrow potential breath. Okay, thank you. Thank you for clarifying that. So the idea of being future oriented or forward looking, which I think is probably an important leadership skill as well to think done that, does that fit into mindfulness versus flow? It's a great debate right now. There's actually lots of conversations going on on if you're being mindful, which theoretically is about present moment attention. How can you be planning for the future? And so they call this debate the being versus doing controversy or paradox? How can he be in the moment and only doing what you're doing but still thinking about the future? It really comes down to almost a matter of semantics, you can still be present while thinking about or planning what you're going to do in the future. Right. So, present moment, attention doesn't mean that you're It's more about what is holding your attention at the moment. Are you? Are you being planful? and thoughtful? Or are you letting your monkey mind determine what you're talking about? So you can still be mindful about what's going on in the future.

Scott Dust 41:12
And if anything, you could argue that mindful planning is better than, you know, not planning at all or, or a lack of mindful planning. And actually, one of the things that I've written about was mindful multitasking. And so arguably, multitasking is both good and bad. multitasking is bad in that if you're not doing one thing at a time, your mind just can't handle doing doing that one thing well, right, you're just kind of all over the place and not focusing. But then there's also arguments to suggest that multitasking can be beneficial. Because if you're so worried about one thing, you're not going to get everything done that you need to get done and you're not thinking about the big picture or something like that. And so in the research we did, we, we helped clarify this by saying look, if you look at this from a tree, Based perspective, not a moment to moment perspective, those that are high on trait mindfulness, they can actually make sure that trait Polly chronicity, which is multitasking, your tendency to engage in multitasking can influence our life satisfaction in our career satisfaction. So in our data set, we illustrated it Yeah, actually, multitasking can be good. When we're talking about it from a more broad trait based perspective. You're not afraid to engage in multiple things going on in your life at any one point in time. And that's kind of the way we have to be right you have your kids you have your, your partner, you got your house to worry about you got your friends got social life, you got your work, I mean, there's all sorts of different things that we're kind of going in and out of at any one day in time to make sure we manage it. As long as you're managing it mindfully that can be better for you in the long term for satisfaction of career in life, if you're not mindful, and you're just kind of randomly going through everything because you're not present. That's detrimental.

John Ryan 42:58
So one of I love that term trait poly-chronicity. That's so academic. I absolutely love it. I adore it. I'm going to use it as many times as I can today. And, but but you're really can we use the word intention, like mindful behind the intent. The intention is to be mindful while planning so you can be mindful, but you're directing your attention, your energy, your focus to the future, because that's what the task requires for you at that point in time. If you want to reminisce with your family, and about the vacation you had last year to reconnect to your why and how much he loves spending time together. That's not just ruminating, that's actually doing it with intention. And that's the power of being mindful in the moment. Absolutely. Yeah. intention being a key word. I absolutely love that. I think you're, you're well on your way to being a Zen leadership philosopher. I that's it. That's my goal. I appreciate that. So So mindful multitasking. That's fantastic. The last one I asked you about is emotional intelligence in relation to job fit. So, how does that fit in? And does every job require that we have emotional intelligence?

Scott Dust 44:09
Yes, I think I'm gonna show intelligence is important. And I think it's a real thing. You know, we, oddly enough emotional intelligence. There's some naysayers out there that do not think it is a real thing. And part of the reason that is, is because of the way that it was being tested. We talked a little bit about measures and surveys and how to actually capture some of these leadership styles. But in terms of capturing emotional intelligence, there was some surveys out there are questionnaires out there that were self rated. How can you self rate on your self awareness accurately? How can you self rate on your other awareness accurately, right, so those are great arguments and they're very legit. But there's also lots of emotional intelligence measures out there that come at it from an ability standpoint. So you have an ability to actually engage in those behaviors and it just needs to be measured in a different way. way it needs to be compared against a norm or the rest of the population. It needs to be a specific behavioral task. It can't be a self rating or your perceptions of emotional intelligence. So emotional intelligence, there is some great research out there using that ability based perspective to illustrate that, yes, it does have long term implications that are positive and helpful. In one of the studies that I did with one of my colleagues at Miami, Joe Rody, he collected data on on emotional intelligence using this ability based emotional intelligence test from undergrads when they were I think, juniors, seniors in college. 10 years later, they followed up with as many of them as they possibly could, and ask them a bunch of questions about their current work environment. Interestingly, emotional intelligence was incredibly powerful over 10 years and predicting all sorts of things. One of them being the extent to which they had better job fit as well as better organization Fit. And so what what job fit is there's actually two different types. It's the extent to which you are in a job where your abilities match the demands of that specific position. Right? There also is person job fit and the extent to which the job that you're in matches your needs from a psychological perspective, how much autonomy do I need? How much relatedness do I need? How much control do I need, and then person organizations, that is the extent to which your values align with the values of the organization that you work for. Some people that are in tune, have this sense of self awareness, other awareness, emotional self regulation, and all those other dimensions of emotional intelligence. 10 years later, we're able to strongly predict the extent to which arguably, we're engaging in work that we like, we're in a job that we like within an organization that we like. It was also super helpful in overcoming what we would call career challenges across the line. So we look At employment gaps that may be either voluntary or involuntary. And people that were high on emotional intelligence were very good at kind of recuperating and making sure they stayed on the right track, even when they had hiccups within their work career over that 10 year period. That's, that's fantastic. So if I think back to those, the job fit idea. So there's the the knowledge, skill, ability fit, there's the personality, the the drive, that you have, the how you the work, the control the mentioned, and also the organizational alignment, those three come together, and you have to consider all three it sounds like not just do I have the skills but is it a fit for me personally? And does it actually fit the larger vision mission that I that I'm comfortable in pursuing in my life in my work? That's right.

Scott Dust 47:48
Yeah, I would. I would even challenge everybody out there to really evaluate their work on multiple dimensions. The two job fit dimensions, demands abilities as well. needs supplies, as well as personal organizations that your values and the values of your organization. But then there's also other fit determinations such as your fit with your supervisor. And you could look at that from a values perspective or a personality perspective. You could also evaluate person group fit. So how do you align or not align? Or maybe even set a different way? How do you complement OR supplement whatever it is that your group has to offer? And so I tell my undergrads this all the time you are consistently as a career management type conversation, going to be thinking through the degree to which you have fit on any of these five categories, or however many you want to categorize them into. And just know that it's always going to be a work in progress. And that it might seem sometimes like the right thing to do is to just jump ship and go to a different company. But a lot of times it's going to be up to you and your ability to do what's called job craft. And really think through how to change your work environment. yourself, you are in charge of your own destiny, you are the leader of your own career. And so you have to get in there and say, Are there opportunities that could be win win for me to make changes to what I'm doing what other people are doing in order to make my work more fulfilling from a variety of different perspectives, right? So thinking through our work environment, in terms of fit can be a helpful mechanism for figuring out how to improve it.

John Ryan 49:24
I love that you don't just have to jump ship, you actually can shape the organization you're in if you're gonna jump ship anyways, why not give it a try?

Scott Dust 49:30
That's right. Yeah. And human resource management for a long time. The assumption is that like, it's top down, hey, my, my human resource director is going to tell me what my next career move is. Maybe but not really anymore. You're in charge of of your career and you have to ask the questions. You got to find mentors, you have to figure out ways to do it yourself, or you might be passed on.

John Ryan 49:51
Wonderful. Scott, thank you so much for spending time with us. What's the best way for people to get in touch with you and continue the conversation?

Scott Dust 49:58
Sure. So like I said, I'm kind of on a mission to kind of infuse practice with scientific evidence and kind of meet in the middle between these two parties. And so they go to my website, www.scottdust.com I have a newsletter called resources for human capital enthusiasts, where I take a timely topic. For example, the most recent one is virtual leadership, right? Clearly, that's something people are asking a lot of questions about right now. And I dive into the academic literature and I condense it into what I think are the most important things that practitioners should be considering from an academic evidence based perspective and try to put it in very clear simple terms. All my social media outlets are available there as well. I've got stuff on YouTube, I've got a Twitter Linkedin Facebook page. And then also if they're interested in cloverleaf where, where I'm the chief research officer, they can go to www.cloverleaf.me and evaluate some of those resources especially if you're a coach or consultant and you're interested in assessments at large and coaching your organizations on how to improve in terms of leadership or team development. There's a lot of good resources there and opportunities for partnerships.

John Ryan 51:08
Fantastic. Awesome. Thanks again for being here. And thank you all for listening and watching until next time, develop yourself, empower others and lead by example. Take care.

Scott Dust 51:16
Thanks, john.

John Ryan 51:17
Thank you.

John Ryan 51:21
Thanks for listening to key conversations for leaders with your host john Ryan. If you enjoy the show, please let us know. Give us a rating or write a review. For additional leadership tools, visit www.keyconvo.com/free and if you haven't already, you can connect with me on twitter @keyconvo or on LinkedIn at JohnRyanLeadership.

John Ryan

Host of Key Conversations for Leaders Podcast, Executive Coach, Consultant, and Trainer

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