Some of the journal articles listed in the Read, Reflect, and Relate to Your Growth page may not be accessible without a paid subscription. Below are a few summaries of a some such articles so you can get the gist of the content and perhaps spark ideas for further searches on your own.

Work-Life Balance

Give Your Organization a Work-Life Vision
by Monique Valcour
From the Harvard Business Review (September 01, 2014)

Reflections from the Reviewer: Much has been said already about work-life balance, and more has been said than has been done. The enlightenment this author provides is that of the concept of human energy and energy management. Simply stated, it is poor management of one’s energy to burn out. It is best for the organization and staff person to allow that staff person to live in such a way that they have optimal human energy on a sustainable basis.

 Independent Summary of Key Points:

  • Multiple parties, including individuals, organizations and research institutes are placing increased attention on the topic of work-life balance and its importance.
  • Regretfully, upgraded policies do not change years of ingrained work-life corporate culture, with all of its unwritten expectations and norms.
  • Culture and the behavior of one’s colleagues is far more powerful than explicit, written policies and defining the flexibility one has for work-life balance.
  • What does it take to shift a culture?  It takes both consistent communication and consistent modeling of the desired behavior by senior leaders.
  • What is a work-life vision?  It is a profound point of view that draws people to it and provides guidance for their daily behaviors.

“Here’s a work-life vision that might serve you well: The best managers in our organization are the ones who best manage the energy of their teams. Energy is something we can all recognize as a precious resource, which is only valuable in use, yet must not be over-exploited and should not be wasted. In an organization, energy is the essential “human resource” to be channeled – every bit as important as financial resources to success, and often more so.”

  • By establishing such a work-life vision, the organization gives its leaders a decision criterion that helps both parties: “good work accomplished today, by burning energy, and good work accomplished tomorrow, by conserving and replenishing energy.”
  • By recasting work-life balance in terms of energy management, the organization can provide a vision that facilitates changing the culture.  Such a vision assists leaders in championing and defending the precious commodity of workforce energy, the reserve gained from rest and time away from work which helps provide the focus and sense of purpose to accomplish important work.
  • Additionally, a work-life vision opens a discussion on what is a fair and reasonable, sustainable workload for staff.
  • Optimal work-life integration, as well as the physical, mental and emotional benefits should be seen as more than luxuries during a slow time at work.  Rather, “when leaders see work-life as fundamentally about stewardship of human energy, they no longer ask themselves whether business conditions currently favor keeping employees healthy and whole.” 

This article was reviewed and summarized by Bruce Becker, SIL HR Project Manager.

Additional Resources: ·         

Original Article:


A Better Way to Set Strategic Priorities
by Derek Lidow
February 13, 2017

Reflections from the reviewer: The author gives a tight, worthy, specific process for setting priorities and allocating resources.  For clarity, the reviewer took the liberty to simplify and get more readily to the end-state advocated by the author, which maintaining integrity with the process advocated.

Independent Summary of Key Points:

  • When faced with a number of initiatives and limited time and resources, the author offers an alternative to rank ordering. Specifically, consider the three variables for each project: the initiative, resources and timing.   
  • Rather than rank-ordering, suppose the decision maker allocates the available resources across the six (for example) initiatives. To do so, the decision maker must decide which level of priority each of the six initiatives warrants: critical, important, and desirable.
  • Critical projects must be adequately resourced, and likely those resources must be drawn from initiatives that are deemed a lower priority.
  • Accordingly, the author suggests a four-step process:
  • List all the various resources that are available to be applied in the left column of a table;
    • Across the top of the table, list the six desired initiatives, along with desired completion dates;
    • Go across the table on each row, and designate the resources necessary for each initiative identified[i]. It is quite likely that the total resources needed will exceed those available.
    • Now categorize each of the six initiatives with their level of priority. Select the critical one or if absolutely necessary, two initiatives. “A critical priority is an objective that must be successfully accomplished within a specified amount of time, no matter what.”  Given this imperative, now you need to identify which lower priority initiative(s) would be tasked to release resources, in the case where the critical or important initiatives need more resources to complete on time. 
    • Reviewer’s clarification: Obviously, the initiatives which would be called upon to release resources are the desired ones first, and if absolutely necessary, the important ones. This may take several iterations to draw resources from lower priority initiatives, until the highest priority ones get sufficiently resourced, while staying within total, limited resources available[ii].
  • Upon completion, the table becomes a strategic plan for completing the six desired initiatives. As initiatives are completed, resources such as staffing are freed up and may be reallocated. Further, resources may be reallocated if a crisis were to arise, ensuring that the designated critical initiatives get sufficiently resourced.
  • The benefit of this approach is to avoid the friction associated with attempting to rank order the six initiatives. Rather, this process helps to align the leadership team with recognized organizational priorities, and makes it less painful for those supervisors who oversee the resources to release them to the initiatives deemed most critical to the organization.  

[i] Reviewer made a simplification for clarity

[ii]  Reviewer made a clarification

This article was reviewed and summarized by Bruce Becker, SIL HR Project Manager.

Additional Resources: Original Article   Https://

Building Trust

The 3 Elements of Trust
by Jack Zenger  and Joseph Folkman
February 05, 2019

Reflections from the reviewer: Trust is a priceless treasure that is hard to earn and easy to lose, yet it is so very worthy to strive for. There is a strong correlation between staff trusting their leader and evaluating him or her positively. So how can trust be earned or re-established? The authors of this article have identified three key elements that build a foundation of trust. Interestingly, the authors showed that variation in the trust rating of a leader could be primarily explained by these three elements.

Independent Summary of Key Points:

By understanding the behaviors that underlie trust, leaders are better able to elevate the level of trust that others feel toward them. Here are the three elements.

Positive Relationships. Trust is in part based on the extent to which a leader is able to create positive relationships with other people and groups. To instill trust a leader must:

  • Stay in touch on the issues and concerns of others.
  • Balance results with concern for others.
  • Generate cooperation between others.
  • Resolve conflict with others.
  • Give honest feedback in a helpful way.

Good Judgement/Expertise. Another factor in whether people trust a leader is the extent to which a leader is well-informed and knowledgeable. They must understand the technical aspects of the work as well as have a depth of experience. This means:

  • They use good judgement when making decisions.
  • Others trust their ideas and opinions.
  • Others seek after their opinions.
  • Their knowledge and expertise make an important contribution to achieving results.
  • Can anticipate and respond quickly to problems.

Consistency. The final element of trust is the extent to which leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do. People rate a leader high in trust if they:

  • Are a role model and set a good example.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Honor commitments and keep promises.
  • Follow through on commitments.
  • Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.
  • At a high level, here is the process used by the authors to understand how the three elements interacted to create the likelihood that people would trust a leader. Specifically, they experimented with how performance on each of the key elements impacted the overall trust score. 
  • “In our study we found that if a leader scored at or above the 60th percentile on all three factors, their overall trust score was at the 80th percentile.”  They considered the 60th percentile to be “Average”.
  • Interestingly, the authors learned that being just above average in the three key skills can have a profoundly positive effect on the leader’s trust rating. Contrarywise, being below average severely lowered the trust rating.
  • Additionally, the authors learned that a leader’s trust rating correlates highly with how their staff rate their overall leadership effectiveness.
  • The authors tested to see the extent to which each of the three key elements influenced the trust rating. Their hypothesis was that consistency across all three elements would be of primary importance.
  • Surprisingly, the authors determined that the element of good relationship was distinctly the most substantial in driving trustworthiness. Even when the other two elements were rated highly, when relationships were rated low, trust dropped by 33 points. The authors inferred that if a good relationship was never formed or the established relationship was damaged, people find it hard to trust that leader.
  • Conclusion: While an excellent leader does not have to be perfect, when you consider his or her trust rating, all three elements of trust need to be above average, and of the three elements, the element of good relationships has the most profound impact on the perception of the leader’s trustworthiness. For a leader to improve his or her trust rating, he or she should strive to work on the elements of weakness, at least to the point of being above average, and then of the three elements, work the most on good relationships.

This article was reviewed and summarized by Bruce Becker, SIL HR Project Manager.

Additional Resources:  Original Article-


Which Kind of Collaboration Is Right for You?
by Gary P. Pisano  and Roberto Verganti
From the Harvard Business Review (December 2008)

Reflections from the Reviewer:  Often one thinks of collaborating with his or her immediate colleagues or friends. The authors of the referenced article have broadened this concept, having done considerable research on collaborating with parties outside of the organization. This article builds on the premise that we understand and embrace a higher level of connectedness and the opportunities it brings. I found their “Four Block” graphic particularly insightful, helping one to find the optimal type of collaboration for the case at hand. Within the arena of language translation, which is highly complex, SIL likely will find the closed type of participation more beneficial, whereby fewer parties participate, yet they bring more expertise to the collaboration.  This article should provide the reader with some new tools in his or her toolkit for expanding their use of effective collaboration.

Independent Summary of Key Points:

  • Organizations should not innovate on their own, but collaborate with partners; however, it is challenging to select the best partners.
  • Each mode of collaborating has pros and cons and there is no single best answer.
  • Pisano & Veganti have developed a collaborative architectural framework, based on years of research. The key is to consider your strategy and based on that, determine the optimal collaborative approach.
  • Do you want “crowdsourcing” where everyone can participate with their proposed problem solutions, or are you more selective in who you choose to collaborate with, based on the specific problem at hand and the associated complexities?
  • A closed form of participation would be a limited group of collaborators, vs. an open form with numerous ones.
  • Concerning governance of such partnership networks, in a hierarchical case, one organization is considered the “kingpin,” and selects the solution.  Here the kingpin has the advantage of directing the review and capturing more of the solution’s value.  In contrast, other networks are flat; here, each partner has an equal influence in deciding the solution. A flat network has the advantage of sharing efforts and costs with collaborative partners. 
  • Pisano & Veganti developed a graphic that shows 4 ways to collaborate, considering differing degrees of governance and participation, as follows:
  • Each corner of the Four Block Diagram has strengths and weaknesses which must be weighed on an instant-case basis.  The authors define these strengths and weaknesses as shown below:
  • A threshold question is how open or closed the network should be.  The more open, the more cost and constraints to facilitating the larger collaboration network.  Also, open networks dilute the influence of “subject matter experts” who then are less likely to participate.  However, the benefits of a more open network are a vast number of ideas without the need to identify who is the “subject matter expert” and not needing to know the participants, perhaps with input coming from sources you would never have considered.  Based on the above, open modes work best when problems are not complex and therefore are not dependent on specific input from experts. 
  • In picking a closed mode, you first must thoroughly understand the type of expertise you need and then know where to look to locate the appropriate, limited number of collaborators who have such specific knowledge.
  • “Open collaboration works best when the consequences of missing out on a much better solution from an elite player are small.”
  • Let’s consider the Y axis of the authors’ graphic, i.e., criteria for selecting the mode of participation:
    • First, is it easy and cost effective to sort the data? If so, this may point to open participation.
    • Second, can a large group of reviewers credibly rate the alternatives, or is the situation and proposed solutions too complex for masses to attempt such a rating?  If the later is the case, this may point to closed participation.
    • Third, how critical is the problem?  If it is critical, you cannot afford to make the wrong decision even if it rates well with the reviewers.  This may point to closed participation.
    • Fourth, can the problem be chunked down so collaborators can work on it fairly easily?   If these conditions do not exist, it is wiser to consider a network with more closed participation.
  • Now let’s consider the X axis of the authors’ graphic, i.e., criteria for selecting the degree of governance:
    • Hierarchical governance is preferred when the problem is complex and your organization has well established capabilities, knowledge to define the problem and skill to correctly select the optimum solution.
    • However, a flat mode of governance is beneficial when no particular organization is considered an expert.  “In this case, the users are best positioned to devise and test solutions because they’re closest to the problem. Indeed, they usually have discovered the problem in the first place.” 
    • Unlike the hierarchical mode where the participants have no say in the decision, flat modes work when collaborators have a vested interest in developing a problem solution. Here, perhaps, multiple parties will agree to use the solution collaboratively developed by the network.
  • What can be used as incentives to get other organizations to participate?  In a nonprofit organization the incentives may be that one may increase their reputation within their peer group, gain the inner satisfaction of helping find a solution and the chance to apply the solution to their specific organization.  
  • A collaboration strategy may evolve over time.  For instance, Organization XYZ may initially have great expertise and may want to keep strong control over that expertise.  In such a case, they likely would pick the elite circle, where they select limited participants, define the problem and pick the solution.  However, as time moves on, they may want additional functionality for which they are not the experts.  Hence, they may need to move to a different type of collaboration, more appropriate for their emerging goals and needs.  Depending on the complexity at hand, an organization could even use a combination of collaboration modes simultaneously as part of their strategy.
  • In summary, different approaches can be used based on different conditions. The caution is to avoid locking in on one single style and failing to see the richness and potential of the others.  A key here is for leaders to know what the strategy is and to study the organizational problem before selecting an optimal collaboration strategy.

This article was  reviewed and summarized by Bruce Becker, SIL HR Project Manager.

Additional Resources:

Original Article: