Creating a 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 […]

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 […]

The Uncomfortable Truth about Leadership Training

Let’s get it out right up front – organizations spend billions every year on leadership training yet see little, if any, change in actions or results.  The uncomfortable truth is that most leadership training is a waste of time and money.  To better understand this situation, we need to look at three critical questions. -Why does most training fail? -Why do companies continue to spend money for so little value? -What steps can you take to make sure that your investment isn’t wasted?   There are several reasons why training fails. Confuse skill and perspective problems – This factor may be the single most common cause for why training fails.  […]

Why Tech Projects Fail, and How to Prevent It

The most effective IT leaders I know always seem to have the same three priorities for their work – create measureable business value, make and keep commitments to their clients, and deliver high quality solutions built for sustainable success.  These leaders are true “partners” – seeking to understand the client’s purpose and goals, proactively proposing ideas, and resolving conflicts that might prevent project success.  Despite these leaders’ values and actions, despite their efforts to lead successful projects, the dirty secret of technology implementation is that too many projects blow budgets, miss deadlines, or deliver products that don’t work as promised – or at least not until the next release.   […]

Productive Nonconformity

“Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.” – Emerson   When people think about nonconformity, they often think about superficial things – language, grooming, clothing, and even tools or toys.  But that is not the nonconformity that concerns me here.  The most powerful, useful, yet dangerous nonconformity is to speak out when all the forces around you compel you to silence.   Perhaps the best-known case concerning the need for nonconformity is the debacle that was Enron – 4000 jobs destroyed, $74 billion in lost shareholder value, billions more in losses by creditors, and the dissolution of Arthur Andersen represent only a portion of the final toll.  Based […]

I’m right, and they’re wrong – The “Grrrr!” moment

It’s a common frustration among managers, as they try to work with others to get things done. “They don’t get it!” “It’s their fault that things aren’t going right!” “I’m the only one who can do this right!”  “Why won’t they do (or see) it my way?” When a manager is in the throes of that frustration, I call it the “Grrrr!” moment.   These managers will go on to provide elaborate explanations about why their point of view on the issue at hand is logically correct. But I believe the logic covers something deeper. Behind the conviction of rightness is often a need to be right … which goes […]

Having Difficult Conversations with Authority Figures

One dangerous effect of American downsizing is that employees’ fear has limited their willingness to engage in the difficult conversations needed to improve performance.  I see and hear about this effect almost everywhere I go, and it seems to get worse all the time. I tell people that avoiding engagement is also a kind of choice, with its own potential risks.  But people seem resigned to these risks, because they pale in comparison with the more immediate consequences they expect will follow any dissent – consequences like job loss, demotion, or being overlooked for the few available opportunities. I believe that this paralyzing fear is bad for both employees and […]

Stop Treating Conflicts Like Problems

My partner, Joan, wrote a great piece about learning to love conflict. In that post, she cited Ron Heifetz, who claims that the essential quality of leadership is the ability to resolve competing values – in other words, to resolve conflicts. I want to build on her strong start by discussing one of the biggest challenges to effective conflict resolution – which is treating conflicts as if they were problems. I recently conducted a workshop on collaborative conflict resolution. When we got to the part about developing remedies, participants tried to resolve their conflicts with “the usual suspects” – appeals to policies or rules, shared goals, or methodological standards. In […]

Think WITH Your Customers

Unfortunately, customer engagement is still largely defined around talking at customers. And, though methods are evolving, the messages still seemed to be guided by a flawed assumption that you can control customers’ choices, IF you just find the right button to push. I believe that companies could significantly improve sales, brand, and customer loyalty if they would stop thinking ABOUT their customers and start thinking WITH them. Dialogue requires shared responsibility – to identify opportunities and problems, to identify common interests, to define options and decision criteria jointly, and to share responsibility for execution. However, I believe that many companies are afraid of real dialogue, because it might surface issues […]

Face Time Doesn’t Equal Productivity

I understand Marissa Mayer’s edict to have workers return to the office, but I doubt she will accomplish her stated goal of having Yahoo “move more quickly, with teams focusing on collaboration and communication.”  Simply, I believe that most people today face too many roadblocks to effective collaboration – no matter where they park their computer. What is Real Collaboration? At Teleos, we see collaboration as much more than coordinating tasks or playing nice together.  Real collaboration is about building commitment and managing performance, to achieve some shared purpose.  Real collaboration requires people to share their views, even when those views differ from those held by supposed experts and authority […]