Robert Sutton

If you have a team that you think has a lousy leader, the first question to ask is, Is the team too big? It’s amazing how crummy leaders become great when they go from leading, say, 11 people down to five. And the reverse is true as well. You may think someone has reached their limits as a manager when they’re asked to take on … [ Read more ]

Robert Sutton

It’s not that I’m opposed to flatter organizations. It’s just that you have to be careful that you have enough layers to maintain some control. This is sort of unavoidable. Hierarchy is not an inherently evil concept; it’s gotten a bad name because it’s become associated with barriers and ineffectiveness.

How to Scale Up Excellence in an Organization

Stanford’s Robert Sutton discusses the mind-set and strategies of companies that are most adept at building and spreading high standards.

Bob Sutton

When we looked at cases where scaling failed, they seemed to have the trifecta of illusion, incompetence, and impatience; this idea of “We’re going to do it all at once, we don’t have time to slow down and do it right. But we’re so great, we can do it.”

Bob Sutton

It’s interesting, the people who are really good at getting things done, they’re not just optimists. In fact, research shows they have high positive and high negative affect, which means they’re really optimistic and confident things will turn out in the end, but they’re really, really worried about every little detail and how it’s going to screw things up.

How to Scale Up Excellence in an Organization

Stanford’s Robert Sutton discusses the mind-set and strategies of companies that are most adept at building and spreading high standards.

Robert Sutton’s Guide to Excellence

The Stanford professor’s latest research explores the practices that enable companies to scale what they do best.

Bad to Great: The Path to Scaling Up Excellence

Before senior executives try to spread best practices, they should use seven techniques to clear out the negative behavior that stands in the way.

Robert Sutton

How’s your performance evaluation system working for you? There’s very good evidence to suggest it is ineffective. If performance evaluations were a drug, they would not get FDA approval—at least as they’re done in most organizations. About 20 percent of the time they make things better, 20 percent of the time they make things worse, and 60 percent of the time, meh. Yet we keep … [ Read more ]

Eight Essentials for Scaling Up Without Screwing Up

Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao spent seven years investigating what they term “the problem of more,” the idea that while it may be somewhat hard to come up with a good, new solution, the really hard thing is to get it to spread. There is always some excellence but the difficulty is spreading that excellence to more people and more places. Some call this the … [ Read more ]

Bob Sutton

Why would you need forced rankings to get rid of bad apples if you were doing your job right as a company or leader? The best don’t wait for yearly evaluations—they deal with it now. It always amazes me that—as much as I admire GE in other ways—that they embraced six sigma (based on Deming-like logic that a system in control will have few if … [ Read more ]

Bob Sutton

Passion is an overrated virtue in organizational life and indifference is an underrated virtue.

Thoroughly Counterintuitive Approach to Leading

Is boring suddenly good…and inspirational bad? Stanford professor Bob Sutton explains what he’s learned from hundreds of conversations with Silicon Valley’s brightest stars.

Why Good Bosses Tune in to Their People

Know how to project power, counsels Stanford management professor Bob Sutton, since those you lead need to believe you have it for it to be effective. And to lock in your team’s loyalty, boldly defend their backs.

James Meindl, Robert I. Sutton

James Meindl’s research on “the romance of leadership” shows that leaders get far more credit—and blame—than they deserve, largely because, cognitively, it is easier and more emotionally satisfying to treat leadership as the primary cause of performance than to consider the convoluted and often subtle mishmash of factors that actually determine performance differences.

Robert I. Sutton

The best bosses routinely give their followers more credit than they probably deserve. And when bosses do this, everyone wins. As the boss, you will get the lion’s share of credit because of the romance of leadership. Your immediate team will regard you as truthful. And your modesty and generosity will be admired—especially by outsiders, who will see you as both competent and generous. … [ Read more ]

Robert I. Sutton

Leaders who denounce outside forces for their troubles come across as disingenuous and powerless. By refusing to take responsibility, they implicitly raise a damning question: “If you didn’t have the power to break it, how can you have the power to fix it?” The public also sees a boss’s refusal to accept responsibility as a sign that nothing has been learned from the errors.

Bad Is Stronger Than Good: Evidence-Based Advice For Bosses

Recently, Bob Sutton posted a list of 12 Things Good Bosses Believe. Now he’s following up by delving into each one of them. This post is about the tenth belief: “Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.”

True Leaders Are Also Managers

In reviews of leadership writings and research, Bob Sutton kept bumping into an old and popular distinction that has always bugged him: leading versus managing. Rather than rejecting the distinction between leadership and management, he says that the best leaders do something that might properly be called a mix of leadership and management. At a minimum, they lead in a way that constantly takes into … [ Read more ]

Hey Boss — Enough with the Big, Hairy Goals

Recently, Bob Sutton posted a list of 12 Things Good Bosses Believe. Now he’s following up by delving into each one of them. This post is about the third belief: “Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every … [ Read more ]