The human brain responds differently to another person depending on how it analyses others status. People who perceive themselves as being of a high status exhibit added brain activity with those whom they think same status as them, while those with lower status have a greater response to other low-status individuals. According to author Dr Caroline Zink, the way people behave and interact with other people is frequently decided by their social status comparative to their own. So information concerning social status is awfully precious to them. The socioeconomic status is not based solely on money, but may also comprise aspects like achievements and habits.
In an organisation such as the one I work in consisting of knowledge workers, “higher” status is attributed to people who are deep technical experts with a number of patents to their credit, who have a track record of shipping fantastic products or people run large teams, which build the cutting edge technology. It therefore becomes very important for leaders to use this as ways to motivate and retain people, especially high potential employees. Some ways to provide status would be
· Recognition of any technology innovation done by an individual or team. Showcasing it in a large audience
· The leaders themselves being hands on technical experts and teaming with younger employees to work on a product
· Visible recognition of High Potential employees for their contribution by an expert
· Mentoring and Coaching by senior leaders who have domain expertise in a certain technology
· Encourage participation in external forum of technology excellence
· Create communities/learning circles of similar technology interests with a senior expert
Although status may be something that is personal and defined differently by different individual, at an organization level there is scope to build in some broad brush-strokes and commonly understand “status” needs depending on the organizational goals and aspirations of employees. Status is something that needs to top of mind of leaders while defining employee development strategies.
One of the Leadership Competencies we suggest leaders build in our organisation in order to be successful is “networking”. Networking means to be able to build relationships across hierarchies, functions and divisions in the organization and outside to be able to be a more effective leader. We provide leaders with a software package that helps them manage networks, understand in which areas they need to build more networks (with the company or outside etc) and how often should they be reaching out to different people. Networking is often without an agenda. It’s “lets catch up for coffee because I’m in town” or “let me send you my latest article that I wrote in a magazine”. However I have noticed that either leaders take to this like a fish to water – easily, happy to build networks and thrive on building relationship that help them through their careers or there are leaders who simply cringe at the idea. These leaders think its an overburden and goes beyond the duty of work.
After understanding the SCARF model and Relatedness, I realise why there are these two different pools of leaders, who may be competent in their own way but feel differently to the concept of networking. It means that different leaders have different needs of relatedness, and as an organisation we need to understand these needs. Often times not wanting or not needing to “network” impedes a leaders career, but it now seems that there is intervention needed to help the leader meet his capacity of Relatedness and for the organization to understand the varied needs in an individual.
It will be important to probably have stages in the process of networking, to help address this issue. Stage one as a basic networking skill, how many people do you interact with within your department, Stage two could be interact within your function and Stage 3 could be interact within the company. This could be taught as a skill building process instead of such expecting people to take it up and master it since that seems dependant on the dominance of Relatedness domain in ones brain.
Kalpana Sinha is a Leadership and Organisation Professional. Her blog has reflections from her work experiences of over 20 years.