Overcoming Roadblocks to Your Development


CHANGE IS HARD. We at Teleos are in the business of helping leaders shift the way they lead, in ways that better enable them to accomplish important goals. One insight that’s been reinforced over the years is that it’s hard to sustainably change behavior on important dimensions. Our experience is validated by a deep body of research by leadership thinkers, such as Chris Argyris’ study of how hard it is for high-performing professionals to learn.

Manage Performance without Authority

Manage Performance w:o Authority

In a recent blog, I defined collaboration as mutual responsibility. A key element of this definition is the idea of being responsible for results without the “illusion of control.” I cannot compel others to commit or perform, but I can ask directly for their commitments, reinforce effective performance, and engage and manage any performance that is off-track. This idea may seem self-evident, but you couldn’t tell by observing the everyday conversations in most organizations. From direct observations, data collection I’ve done, and anecdotes I’ve heard, such conversations are avoided more frequently than engaged. And, if people ever do engage, it’s typically when they can no longer avoid it, so the […]

Collaboration as Mutual Responsibility

2015_5_8 Collaboration as Mutual Responsibility

Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility. Sigmund Freud I think that Freud was wrong, but not totally wrong. I don’t think people are frightened of responsibility. Instead, I think that they’ve been conditioned to believe that someone else should and will be responsible. But, if we want every person to act responsibly – for results, for choices, for the risks they see in others’ decisions and actions – then we must change how we think and talk about responsibility. When I ask people to describe collaboration, the most frequent definition I hear is working together on some shared […]

Creating a Results-Oriented Culture

2015_3_6 Results-Oriented Culture

Even though my friends will laugh (or faint), I’ve decided that it’s time to talk about culture. Lately, I see so much content about this topic, and the role it can play in attracting and retaining talented people. Many of these stories focus on work experience and relationships, which I see as necessary but not sufficient. So, instead of another blog on how to create a great place to work, I want to focus on the issue that I believe matters the most to talented people and that’s how to create a “results-oriented” culture. FIRST, LET ME DEFINE THIS TERM. If you visit Dictionary.com and look for culture you can […]

Want To Be An Innovator? Shift Your Perspective


There’s a lot of talk these days about innovation and disruption. If you’re a front-line leader, what can you do to foster innovation? First, you must understand how your ability to innovate is directly shaped by your thoughts and beliefs about the world and yourself in it.   Let’s talk first about some actions that are key to your ability to identify and champion an innovative idea.  Across dozens of organizations that have tried to develop more innovative cultures, they consistently identify and emphasize competencies like the following:   Recognize opportunities, which others may not see, to affect organizational goals and challenges. Advocate for unpopular ideas. Challenge others’ thinking and […]

Influence Without Authority

9_11_14 Influence Without Authority

The aim of every form of organization should be to seek the methods by which power can be increased in all – Mary Parker Follett   I’ve trained thousands and, whenever I ask people to define the word power, they always describe the word discretion.  They define power as a person’s ability to make choices about his own interests and then impose those choices on others.  Power is always seen as control, and I’ve heard the same definition on three continents.   Even though I hear this definition everywhere, I see two major problems with it.  The first problem is what I call the “illusion of control.”  This illusion is […]

From Leading a Team to Leading Leaders


Has the scope of your role increased?  Are you now leading leaders with teams of their own, rather than leading a team of individual contributors? Then you have a challenge. You can’t be the expert in every area you lead. You can’t be the problem-solver every time there is a crisis. Somehow, you need to find a way to have your finger on the pulse of your organization without monitoring everything directly. You need to “scale” yourself or you will be overwhelmed. And hardest of all, you may need to step further back from activities that you have found personally satisfying.   SO WHAT CAN YOU DO? To scale yourself […]

Develop Your Insight

8_18_14 Develop Your Insight

Nothing is more terrible than activity without insight. – Thomas Carlyle   Americans are busy at work.  There is no doubting this claim, and here is just a sample of the overwhelming evidence. Americans work 137 more hours/year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours/year than British workers, and 499 more hours/year than French workers. 85% of men and 66% of women work more than 40 hours per week. 88% of Americans carry devices to communicate with work during vacation.   Americans are busy, yet I often wonder just how much of that activity is guided by insight into the situations these people face.  I wonder because I seem to see […]

You might be a narcissistic leader if…


What comes to mind when you think of great leaders? Visionary? Charismatic? Big personalities? Create transformative change? If that’s your picture of a great leader, then it involves narcissism.   Surprised? Have you always thought of narcissism as a purely negative trait? The best theorist of narcissism and leadership is probably Michael Maccoby. For a fuller description of narcissistic leadership, see his HBR article. In it, he argues that many larger-than-life business leaders have been narcissists – Jack Welch, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs. Narcissism can have downsides, but it has its upsides as well. And we all have some narcissistic qualities. What’s key is being what Maccoby calls a “productive” […]

Embrace Resistance

7_10_14 Embrace Resistance

Q – How does a pilot know that he’s over the target? A – They’re shooting at him.   An old joke, but one that a fighter pilot friend of mine swears is true.  Another saying that goes with this joke is “nobody guards an empty hole.”  Unfortunately, these sayings, while certainly funny and possible even true, also help sustain a dysfunctional model of resistance and conflict in organizations.   Conflict isn’t bad or good, and conflict certainly isn’t about “winning” or “losing,” however you define those terms.  Most people don’t resist your ideas simply to annoy you, and those few that do often prove to be inept in their […]