Winter 2015 Issue
Recommended Viewing: Decision Matrix Analysis: How to Make a Good Decision
Recommended Reading: Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader and The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs
From the Web: Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters and The Lost Art of Doing Nothing
Decision-making in a crisis: What every leader needs to know
Developing coaching cultures: a review of the literature
The face says it all: CEOs, gender, and predicting corporate performance
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Dear Clients & Partners, 

Welcome to the Winter 2015 edition of Executive Edge. 


In this edition, our selections are designed to put the spotlight on leader decision-making and self-awareness. We also share a literature review which will be of interest to any organization developing a coaching culture. Finally, we share an interesting study on gender related traits and corporate performance.  


We hope our selections are informative and thought-provoking, as well as providing you with ideas, tools and resources to facilitate your success as a leader as well as aid in the development of others. Do let me know if you'd like to know more about any of these studies. 


DCP Margarett

Margaret D'Onofrio
Principal / Executive Coach


Decision Matrix Analysis: How to Make a Good Decision When Comparing Many Different Factors
Decision Matrix Analysis: How to Make a Good Decision When Comparing Many Different Factors

In this clip, Mindtools introduces the "Decision Matrix Analysis" - a technique used to make a decision. It can be especially powerful when you have a number of good alternatives to choose from, and many different factors to take into account. This makes it a great technique to use in almost any important decision where there isn't a clear and obvious preferred option. The worksheet referred to in this clip can be found here

Mindtools offers a number of excellent resources, including a collection of articles and clips on decision-making. This includes decision models, decision trees, ethics and values and group decision-making. Some resources are free and others (or to read full article) requires a subscription. 


We recommend that you register to access the free resources and decide if a subscription is right for you. 



Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader



Ibarra, an expert on professional leadership and development and a renowned professor at INSEAD, turns the usual "think first and then act" philosophy on its head by arguing that doing these three things will help you learn through action and will increase what she calls your outsight -the valuable external perspective you gain from direct experiences and experimentation. 




The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs



New York Times best-selling author and leadership expert John Maxwell offers practical insight into learning how to lead the person who matters most-yourself.

From the 
  Decoding Leadership: What Really Matters


 McKinsey Quarterly  
Jan 2015  


New McKinsey research suggests that four kinds of behavior account for 89 percent of leadership effectiveness.

Click the image below to enlarge. 


Web Link - Does not require a paid subscription  




The Art of Doing Nothing 

The European Financial Review
By Manfred Kets De Vries and Alicia Cheak

Introspection and reflection have become lost arts in our information and work overloaded world. The balance between activity and inactivity has become seriously out of sync. 

INSEAD professor Manfred Kets de Vries and Alicia Cheak argue that slacking off - or a conscious effort to do nothing - is a great way to induce states of mind that nurture our imagination. 

Taking time off to think and reflect may be the best thing we can do for our mental health, as seemingly inactive states of mind can be an incubation period for future bursts of creativity. 

Web LinkDoes not require a paid subscription

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Decision-making in a crisis: What every leader needs to know 

Fred O. Walumbwa, Modesto A. Maidique, Candace Atamanik. Organizational Dynamics, Volume 43, Issue 4, October-December 2014, Pages 284-293
How executives handle crises can make or break them and their organizations. The combined impact of information overload and the speed with which negative information can be disseminated means that more than ever, executives need to use reliable fact-based evidence to make good decisions under pressure. The authors offer numerous examples of "high stakes" decision-making, citing specific organizations and their crises (company database hacking, product and food safety issues, and environmental and economic disasters). 

The authors argue that decisions are typically made using "bounded rationality" governed by the available information, cognitive resources and time. Poor decision-making can be mitigated in two ways:
  1. By being aware of heuristics and human biases. (Heuristics seeks to maximize accuracy and decision rationale while minimizing cognitive effort and negative emotions) 
  2. By developing greater self-awareness. (Possessing accurate self-knowledge and leveraging it to influence thinking and acting)
Building upon the idea of bounded rationality, the authors discuss the use of "The Adaptive Toolbox", a term coined by Gerd Gigerenzer. The Adaptive Toolbox refers to a collection of cognitive, emotional and social strategies that can facilitate good decision-making. Walumbwa et al propose four rules to help leaders use their personal toolbox more effectively:
  1. Search Rules: Leaders should search for alternatives and cues to evaluate the alternatives, by defining the issues, brainstorming and then listing all the possible solutions. 
  2. Stop Rules: Leaders must follow the "less is more" principle, especially if time is of the essence and know when to stop searching for alternatives. 
  3. Decision Rules: Leaders should consider a decision tree approach since it is fast and frugal and searches only pertinent information. (See resources under "Recommended Viewing" on the left.)
  4. Social Rules: Leaders must consider the social consequence of a decision, applying transparency, fairness and accountability. 

Rules of Thumb 

Every leader comes to the job with a personal toolbox, containing a series of experiential rules of thumbs (ROTs) which guide behavior and decisions. The authors interviewed 25 CEOs to provide examples of real-world constructive and destructive ROTs. The authors differentiate between constructive and destructive ROTs, the latter being the product of destructive emotions. Madoff and Skilling are offered as executives who operated from a base of destructive ROTs. E.g. Madoff's ROT was "defraud your customers until they catch up with you." Constructive ROTs that CEOs offered up to guide their decision-making included "hire well and let people do their jobs" and "dedicate 25% of your R&D budget to long term projects". 


Walumbwa et al conclude that to optimally leverage ROTs when facing a major decision, ROTs should be aligned with higher values that serve as the leader's moral and professional compass. 




The authors make the case that leaders should be self-aware of their decision-making style through a life journey audit of key events including formative personal and business experiences and by asking how they shaped them. This journey along with assessments and coaching can help leaders evaluate the personal rules of thumb that inhabit their adaptable leadership toolkit. 


"...a major objective of leader introspection should be to bring your ROTs to the surface while continuously their validity and adapting them when necessary in the face of new knowledge and experience."   


Web Link - Requires Paid Subscription  

DCP leadership   

Developing coaching cultures: a review of the literature


Helen Gormley and Christian van Nieuwerburgh. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice Vol. 7, Issue No. 2, 2014 pp. 90 -101.

This review examines industry and educational literature in search of a definition and framework for future research on what constitutes a coaching culture, presenting the findings in five sections.


1. Definition of coaching culture

The authors propose seven consistent/common themes from their review, including coaching serves as an integral part of how organizations develop their people; coaching is embedded in performance management and feedback processes; coaching can elevate individual and organizational performance; and creating coaching cultures takes time to develop, but can lead to organizational change and rewards for staff, stakeholders and clients.

2. Coaching to support organizational change

The literature suggests that coaching can change organizations, just as it changes individuals and teams. 


3. Training internal coaches

Citing research and studies, the authors note the growth in training and development of internal coaches. They offer several industry examples that highlight the benefits of internal coaching to both coaches and coachees, as well as the organization.


4. Coaching cultures in educational contexts

The authors note the interest of "coaching cultures for learning" recently attracted to educational settings. This is defined as a one in which coaching is employed throughout the school community to develop learning, understanding and personal responsibility among all stakeholders (students, staff, parents, governors etc.) 


5. Creating coaching cultures

Citing several excellent sources, the authors consider the practical issue of how to develop coaching cultures. This includes involving senior leaders and HR; putting in place internal and external resources; and being clear about desired outcomes.   


The authors conclude that coaching based initiatives are being used holistically to support change in organizations with positive results. They pose two questions which emerged from the literature review, proposing these as areas for future research:

  • "What foundational elements need to be in place before a coaching culture can be developed?" - are there specific pre-conditions that facilitate the development of coaching cultures?
  • "Does the development of coaching cultures increase cooperation and collaboration within organizations?"  - studies that focus on the return on investment (ROI) are urgently required.
Web Link - Does Not Require a Paid Subscription  


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The face says it all: CEOs, gender, and predicting corporate performance. 


Julianna Pillemer - Elizabeth R.Graham - Deborah M.Burke - The Leadership Quarterly 25 - 2014. Pages 855 -864
This study explored the relationship between CEOs' facial appearance, gender-related traits and overall company performance. The researchers predicted that CEOs would be rated higher on gender-linked traits that are tied to male and female stereotypes. Namely:
  • Female CEOs would be rated higher than male CEOs on "communal traits" (i.e. supportiveness, compassion and warmth)
  • Male CEOs would be rated higher on "agentic traits" (i.e. dominance, leadership and power)
The authors also wanted to determine whether gender-linked traits correlate with corporate performance. Specifically, were female CEOs "agentic traits" rather than "communal traits" related to company rank and financial performance?

  • 50 undergraduate students (25 males & 25 females), aged 18-22 years participated in this study. They were unaware of the identity of the headshots they rated and the purpose of the study.
  • 40 CEOs were chosen (20 male and 20 female) using the Fortune 1000 listing for 2007. Female CEOs were paired with a male CEO whose company ranked similarly.
  • Company ranks and profits for 2007 were retrieved from the Fortune website (Fortune, 2007).
  • Faces were presented on the screen and students rated faces on the 10 traits using a 7-point Likert scale where 1 = not at all competent and 7 = very competent. Mean ratings were calculated for each CEO for each trait. 
  • The 10 traits were compassion, interpersonal warmth, supportiveness, dominance, powerfulness, success in leading a company, femininity, masculinity, competence and facial maturity. 

Correlations between trait ratings and company rank or company profits, separately for male and female CEOs, yielded some interesting results. Keep in mind that companies were distributed evenly across all performance ranks and CEOs matched by gender. 
  • The ratings of gender-linked traits from CEOs' faces, specifically, higher powerfulness in male CEOs and higher supportiveness, compassion and warmth in female CEOs, predicted better company rank and/or profits.
  • Higher ratings in a composite of communal traits also predicted better rank and profits for female CEOs, while higher ratings in a composite of agentic traits predicted rank at a marginally significant level. 
  • Although the researchers found no evidence of an association between communal characteristics and corporate profits or rank for male CEOs, women who are perceived as having higher communal traits are CEOs of companies with better ranks and profits. 

Practical Application

The authors conclude that "there is an important relationship between subjective ratings of gender-related traits in CEOs' facial appearance and the rank and profits of their company. Regardless of the nature of causality, the positive relationship between ratings of communal traits in women CEOs and corporate financial performance may support a change toward a more androgynous concept of leadership via the association between communal appearance and higher ranked companies. Further research is needed to investigate how and why the appearance of gender-linked traits in CEOs is predictive of the performance of their companies."
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In Closing ...
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Margaret D'Onofrio

Principal & Executive Coach