March 4, 20215832 Comments

I Wanna Be Rich

You struck it rich. Lots of cash. Ah, take that vision in.

And then watch “The Lottery Changed My Life.” It’s a sad tale (usually) of overspending, overextending and overexposure. Dysfunctional approaches to instant wealth based upon psychological baggage riddle the show. Lots of “I can’t believe I am broke again” head-shaking along with bankruptcy lawsuits make for 30-60 minutes of entertainment (maybe?).

And as typical viewing Americans, we shake our heads at the screen explaining to our television viewing living room audience how this situation would never happen to me. We explain how we wouldn’t fall into the traps these people did and how we’re much smarter than all of this. We think we know better. That’s what we do. Especially in areas where we have no direct experience. Did you ever notice that?

We build upon the premise of knowing, in general, how far is too far. We take the victories we’ve had in life and paint with a broad and bold brush. And while there are some truths that are universal that our experiences have driven home, projecting every opinion or position as absolute truth will likely cause issues, particularly when it comes to dealing with others.

Welcome to the daily “dilemma” organizations face as they ask for collaboration and expression of ideas while maintaining the boundaries of “this is too far.”

Companies say they are looking for “better” employees. I’ve been in these leadership meetings where idealism breaks down into despair about the state of our world. “These kids today” kind of language, pointing out the lack of critical thinking, babied responsiveness and minimum willingness to work hard.  Fractional leadership may be brought in to help, but too often manifests itself in platitudes of what used to work and how life was better then.

Is the basis of leadership in our organizations merely pointing out how far is too far?

We’ve likely read the research that top-down leadership desiring to affect organizational cultural change fails most times. In an effort to fix what is wrong with process and/or product, the personnel attached to these areas are discussed. Behaviors, work ethic and viable knowledge sharing are areas of discussion. And then leadership decides to “crack the whip” “make an example of a few” “introduce a new sheriff in town” or some such tone-deaf, if not offensive, phraseology of yesteryear.

To think inspiration will come from that kind of approach is more laughable today than even ten years ago, thankfully. But as with many human responses, we can swing the pendulum too far in the opposite direction. Leaders want to push transparency and humility as company values in fostering creative, inventive staff contributions. Recent research shows that these organizations are running a higher risk of “too much humility” through self-deprecation leading to employee concern over a lack of leadership competencies. Terms like weak, unsure and incompetent creep into employee survey responses when asked about leadership’s ability to lead people and/or process.

And the shocking answer to much of this is a positional commitment to balance. How might I demonstrate clear organizational direction while maintaining an expressed desire for collaborative input? Think about how that question might be received and answered by the leaders in your own company.

One final reality is the too-oft used personality crutch. The belief is that to balance such an approach is dependent upon a leader with a certain type of personality. True, certain natural leanings will make this balanced approach easier to cultivate; however, that is not the same as saying it’s not possible for leaders of varying personalities to be successful. Extroverts and introverts, whatever your DISC profile or Myers-Briggs alphabet, can achieve a non-punitive, non-authoritarian, innovatively collaborative leadership brand within an organization. Don’t believe the personality excuse.

Is it a good idea for any contributor in the organization to know where the gutters of the bowling lane are? Of course. Is it a good idea for any contributor to understand where the company is going with reasonable transparency? Most definitely.  Can both be done without leadership flexing in extremes? Absolutely. 

Now, let me go get my Quick Picks for MegaMillions…

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February 17, 20217100 Comments

One Hundred Ways

Where motivation meets creativity is in the experimentation. For a business, having staff that are able to innovate and experiment as part of their job duties fosters the kind of whole-hearted investment leaders desire in their teams. It’s not to say that all your employees will do is to innovate. Of course, there are response duties to be done, but their willingness to do better and to perform more efficiently will increase. This supportive environment changes those participating. “How can I help?” becomes the mantra more often.

And lest we think it’s a one-sided relationship, ask yourself, what are the ways the company is doing to provide ways to be innovative? There does not have to be a quantitative answer to this, but are there ones to point to? Having the expectation fall squarely and only on the employee to bring an “A Game” to each day without much, if any, of an expectation for the organization to perform similarly is not an equation for success. The lopsided nature of this is too often the reality of organizations. Hence the performance management process fraught with PIPs, not leading to vibrant change, but too often leading to separation.

A couple of years ago, a CEO of a 17-million-dollar company with about 250 employees shared with me that he was frustrated with the team around him. “I pay these people to do their best and to bring new ideas to the table. They’re lazy and have become too comfortable. I want to refresh the team.” And while his frustration was real and he needed to have an outlet to share, this CEO needed to expand his view. “If I may, what do you think the organization has in place to foster these creative and innovative opportunities?” At first, the CEO was perplexed by my response. “What do you mean, John? I pay them quite well.”

Therein lies a classic rub – I pay you, therefore, be awesome. While money is a factor, for certain, it does not lead to a straight-line cause and effect for innovation, among other areas. In what ways does the environment lend itself to innovation? How often is creativity a topic in a Weekly 30 meeting? For those EOS adopters, does this area appear in your Level 10 meetings? Without cultivating and caring for innovation as a living being, it will die, often before it ever really gets started.

How often have you hired someone and told them the lies about wanting their creativity? OUCH. But think about it. We source for and bring in new talent that we want to shake things up, to add value to what we’ve already built, to inspire others with fresh ideas…and then we show them a cubicle and tell them, effectually, to assimilate through rigid policy and inflexible workflow process.

What we need to do is foster creativity on both sides of the equation. Start with a few simple ideas:

  • Ask – Gather staff and ask them what they need to approach current work more creatively or to develop new ideas more consistently. Some of your best ideas are already there just waiting for permission to share. Set the expectation that not all ideas may be feasible but be prepared to offer a reason why. And if you find yourself saying no to most ideas, the faucet of innovation will dry up quickly. No one wants to hear “no” repeatedly.
  • Develop – When you have a couple of ideas to run with, have a few from the team help you to develop them. Consider what resources – time, space, funds, safety – will be needed to make it happen. When you present these details to the team, they get to help decide on application of those resources. This will deepen their buy-in for the overall vision. Yes, it may mean that not everything can be put in place now, but having the team think critically about what matters today drives innovation. They will already be thinking iteratively as a result of considering highest needs.
  • Test – Give the team space to test out their ideas. Being creative does not mean that success happens at every try. Failure is a teacher. If you can allow for missteps and re-dos, to a degree, then the team is more likely to be free to innovate.  Without safety in experimentation, the desire for new ideas and approaches will be replaced by a desire to stay off the radar and to not get into trouble. And that is a limiter to creativity in business.

After that CEO considered our conversation a bit more, he shared the lack of creative environment in the organization as a whole. “I haven’t given permission for teams to be creative. I only ask about what their responsive work is like and how quickly they can get it done. Frankly, I keep saying we’re busy and that means there’s no time for anything else.” He revamped one department at a time to encourage opportunities to ideate. See? People can learn. Not every time, but sometimes…

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February 3, 20217335 Comments

Everybody Plays the Fool

It seems like “the year that must not be named” brought with it plenty of role changes and career transitions. Whether it was due to certain statewide pandemic mandates and their impact on businesses or due to the inability of an organization to pivot into other types of product or service delivery or just a desire for change, many people have transitioned to a new role over the past year. And a deliberate theme I have heard often in these transitions – “I had enough.”

Hearkening back some years, I can recall being in a role where my amenable disposition was leveraged to keep systemic broken process relationships in place. Conflict simmered throughout the organization and it was my job to help fix all the issues. Knowing that I would want to do an exceptional job, the CEO continued to put me into positions of “coaching” with staff members to get them to feel better about the work they needed to do and the people involved in getting it done. This CEO didn’t specify this as the plan, but as the months and years progressed, it all came to me one night with such clarity that I was dumbstruck as to how I could have missed it for so long. As such, I reached the “I had enough” threshold fairly quickly and transitioned to a new organization.

In The Fighter, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) realizes that his boxing career has been stunted by his family. His brother and mother are his trainer and manager respectively, and they have worked Micky over more than any of his boxing competitors. They have had him fight out of his division (get pummeled rather than fight, more like it) and sacrifice his future for their desires. Micky wakes up to the reality through his new girlfriend’s help. He breaks from his family’s dysfunctional influence in order to do his best work in the ring.

And that’s what each of us must get to. OK, fine, you’ve been a fool in the past. Maybe you’re a fool now. But you can stop. If the “professional” environment has you playing a role that you did not sign up for, then it may be time for a change.

Flippant as these words may seem, there is only one chance you get to live the life you have. Listening to the pained stories of the past year where highly seasoned professionals “woke up” to see their organization’s misaligned values and toxic culture was sad. It’s not as if these professionals were impaired from seeing it sooner, but often the desire to perform work well blinded them from some of the signs. Many of you are fixers. You want your work to be more than mere tasks, but also, about transforming organizations. There are times you are able to do that. There are times it’s the right thing to do. And there are times enough is enough.

And don’t worry about what others may say. They don’t know what you’ve been experiencing. You know the path you’ve had to travel and the circumstances surrounding it. So what if some people on Facebook “talk” about your seemingly odd decision? Social Media is distracting plenty of people from facing their own “enough” thresholds. It’s much easier to judge others from a distance than to deal with the miles you’ve been walking and take action.

Who are those you could turn to and talk out what’s going on at your company? Where are those business guides in your life? Do you know what to look for?

Finding yourself playing the fool is not a crime. Once you realize it, you may need to forgive yourself. You may be tempted towards depression over how foolish you’ve been or towards disbelief as to how you could have missed it for so long. Offer yourself reprieve. You now know better and that makes today the start of a new approach, a new direction or a completely new chapter. Put those gloves back on and get into the ring on your terms. There is still fight left in you. It just needs to be focused in a better direction. You may be down, the ref may be at 6 in a 10-count, but you can get up and get out of that fight. Find the championship role for you.

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January 20, 20218618 Comments

Bad Guy

The frequent requests on HR can make pros cranky. Those often caught in the crosshairs are employees. There, I said it.

In a purely unscientific poll, we discovered that the first impression HR gives to many employees, in various geographies and industries, is one of disdain. Frustrated HR people answer the phone or respond to an email with a “tone.” And those air quotes are not meant to be kind.

In my own life, I can recall deliberately changing my tone after answering a phone call with a gruff “Hello” when I realized it was my boss or the CEO. Otherwise, I may have stayed cranky due to how busy I was. Somehow, my packed schedule and full to-do list was justification for trying to rush an employee off the phone or be dismissive to a department supervisor via email. It was immature and authoritarian in ways it needed not be.

How did we do this to ourselves? I know that not every HR person acts this way. I had to retrain myself to approach communication differently. We have success stories, for sure. But the reputation still precedes us, HR. We’re cranky more than we’re not.

The one-liners from Grumpy Old Men are some of the best the former Odd Couple duo could launch. Truth be told, there may have been one or two that some of us would want to say to a few people around us. Walter Matthau’s character shouting, “Do me a favor. Put your lip over your head and swallow” is deliciously apropos for our most challenging staff. The movie may provide a temporary outlet for such verbal desires, but it ought not to be the theme for the HR Department!

Knowing better does not mean we do better. Be attentive to the way you’re saying what you say. Basic, right? You may have even given that advice to a new manager or the CFO, but how have you applied it to yourself? Re-read that email before you send it. Take a breath before you answer the phone. Review what you plan to say to an employee with an HR colleague or neutral party. Again, these are familiar tactics, but are you doing them? Any self-checks happening?

Maybe today, you can ask a few employees from different areas within the organization to comment on what they think about HR. Ask. And be sure to set the table of safety and confidentiality, if possible, so that the most honest opportunity for feedback would occur. Especially if HR is seen as a distant “bunch of cops,” the likelihood of complete transparency is doubtful. The exercise needs to be worth the time for all involved.

Be encouraged, though, that we can do better. If we’ve made some missteps, own them. Ask for forgiveness and share the better plan/approach that you’ll have. There’s more graciousness in our organizations than we may believe. Step into it. And keep the “moron” comments to yourself.

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January 6, 20218167 Comments

Easy Street

Quick money is the stuff of dreams, right? With MegaMillions offering a jackpot of $490 million (as of the date of this blog), the possibility of Easy Street excites more people. There are those regulars who will play each week for the chance to win $40 million, but once that pot multiplies, lots more people become interested enough to play. Dreaming of what that win will do to life is enough to motivate. Of course, $40 million is nothing to sneeze at, but statistically, we’re a people that need high stakes to inspire us to action.

When incentive plans are developed in organizations, this kind of human drive is forgotten, or at least, minimized. About ten years ago, Hammond’s Candies used to incentivize employees to find cost-cutting measures in production. Within a short time period, ten employees provided either real improvement ideas that were implemented or actual cost of goods reductions. The company was thrilled at the response. Hammond’s Candies paid out $500 for all 10 of those implemented ideas that saved the company thousands of dollars. For those not as quick with math, that means each of the 10 employees received $50. Guess how many new savings ideas were offered after this first crop?

Asking for innovation should inspire people. Consider first, however, the environment. Does your work environment foster such creativity? If it’s a brand new idea, work with a small team of cross-sectional staff to define this new opportunity and how it will function. It’s okay to have a couple of ringers at the onset to create a tone for what it should look like. Staff will respond more favorably if they have an example of how innovation and creativity are defined.

If compensation is going to be offered (lean towards it should), be kind and reasonable. Saving the organization $4500 annually might be worth more than $50. And while the savings may seem small to you (in comparison to the company’s overall budget), it is not small to the employee who spent time considering how to help. What would 10% of that savings as an incentive really cost? It wouldn’t. Allow the incentive to align to the impact. It’s not necessarily true that 10% should always be the factor, so you can have a sliding scale or some levels of incentive offering. Work with your cross-sectional team to help define this area, too. Having buy-in will ensure its launch and its participation.

And be sure those involved have an understanding of budgets, savings…numbers as a whole. You may have to explain some of the “basics.” Don’t assume everyone is working from the same point of reference. One of my favorite scenes from Arrested Development involves Lindsay, Maeby and Michael Bluth:

Lindsay: Ok, I tell you what. I'll take you down to see Nana if you split the money with me 60-40.

Maeby: 55-55.

Lindsay: Deal.

Michael: Sounds like you guys are getting more than you think.

It is good to explain why someone saving the company $4500 should not necessarily get that $4500 (if you do offer that, great, but there could be other reasons not to do that). Truthfully, this may be the first time someone is exposed to a P&L and to budgets. Embrace the opportunity to explain kindly.

Remember, too, that these ideas are not merit-based incentives. Someone having a stand-alone idea for savings or improvement does not mean that the same person is performing consistently in the main areas of the work to be done. Reward the idea and its implementation. Save merit increases for an overall work review.

Innovation is a value to the organization. Rewarding it is appropriate. Incentivizing it poorly will constrict creativity as quickly as its encouraged. These ideas are not likely to put an employee on Easy Street; save that option for MegaMillions.

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December 16, 20208146 Comments

Rise Up

We made it. Hallelujah. It’s the end of 2020. 1.5 million people have died worldwide due to COVID-19 complications. Equity came defiantly front and center forcing a mirror to be held up to each of us. Jobs were lost, hospitals were full, rents were past due and restaurants faced a hurdle the size of the Comcast Tower. And it’s not over yet. We lost Kobe, RBG, Chadwick and Alex. A sense of stability shaken to the core more times than we could count. But we’re here.

And what we know is that we can. With passionate optimism or desperate pleading, we searched “why” more times on Google in 2020 than any other word. We wanted to know, and knowing leads to learning. Learning leads to activation. And activation leads to purpose and passion. We can get back to these two elements even in the worst of times. We can.

We’ve done so after wars, bombings, plagues and economic ruin. We’ve responded through the tears with vibrancy and relevance. We matter and we want to flourish. Change may need to come or more attention may need to be paid. We look for ways to remind and rekindle. We stoke fires and make a meal out of crumbs. We can exhibit resiliency and brokenness concurrently. We can.

And we know that the road is not rosy. There is not an idyllic way to normalize pain, desperation or depravity, nor should there be. We face it, with tears, clenched fists and painful screams, but we face it. We rise despite. 2020 is not to define us; it’s to direct us in what we can do together. We can overturn systems, renew efforts and come together with kindness and conviction. We can expect the best out of one another as we expect in return. We can.

We hope, not for some fantasy, but for the reality of strong character fostering graciousness, understanding and compassion. We are not a people looking for a handout, but rather a people working to advance our condition, our position and our contribution.  We can move beyond our pain without forgetting or losing what it’s done to us as we seek health and betterment. We can.

And while we hope for a better 2021, we know that we will likely face loss, death and uncertainty just as we’ve done in years previous. The situations and circumstances will vary and will require a renewed energy, but we can operate based upon our history of flexibility, camaraderie and courage. We can be brave in climbing over the hurdle and creating new opportunities while finding stability in a bleak landscape. We can see more than our eyes show us. We have done this before, and we can do it again. We can.

(I will be back in 2021 with more human resources, business management, talent acquisition and HR technology content. I wish you all a blessed holiday season and a renewed strength for the new year)

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December 2, 20202854 Comments

Funnel of Love

Ah, the sounds of the season. Year-end stress around reporting, employee documentation and payroll. Isn’t it a lovely din?

In many organizations, a portion of the stress is found in the characterization funnel regarding worth. And before you conjure up beer funnel images of your college bravado, a characterization funnel is quite different. It’s the forced subjective employee personality and effort review that management creates through calendar-based compensation incentives. During this time of year, bonuses and raises may be offered and require managers to determine what and how much.

Of course, if you ask most organizational leaders, they may share the objective-based criteria used in offering those bonuses. They will regale you with tales as to how much effort went into developing these performance-based metrics and deciding upon which areas to measure. It’s a beautiful tale of meetings and emails validating some sort of “process” mechanic. But truth be told, much of that gathered data is then filtered through the characterization funnel, and its veracity is tarnished.

Managers don’t want to end the year by demotivating hard-working team members by crushing their hopes for a certain amount of bonus, or even a bonus at all. “Happy Holidays, Fred. I know you’ve increased productivity by 15%, but to qualify for a bonus, you had to have increased it by 23%. So sorry, but thanks for trying.” Really? Who wants to tell someone that? Usually not the supervisor.

Instead, we tweak the results. “While it may be true that productivity was measured at a 15% increase, we have to give credit to Fred because he lost two employees during the peak season. He really stepped up. I think he should get the bonus in light of that.” Have you been in the room for these conversations? Yes. Yes, you have. So, what’s the answer?

  1. Know what you want to truly measure and why: Stop picking arbitrary metrics. 30% increase…based on what? If there’s never been a history of anyone increasing by 30% and there are no substantive changes to process or materials/service, then why is that a reasonable performance goal? Have valid and reliable reasons for the measurement selected.
  • Spread it out: Instead of having the one time of year to validate someone’s contribution, spread out the incentive opportunities quarterly, monthly, etc. The funnel happens because it’s a rush of employees all at once. Within this, bias will occur. Oh, he’s trying, she’s had some setbacks, etc. Excuses come in that invalidate the criteria that was setup. And lest you think this is symptomatic of a certain size or type of industry, it happens across the board. People dealing with people when the pressure of livelihoods, the time of year and wanting to keep peace all collide lead to subjective decision-making and bias pitfalls.
  • Be incremental: Perhaps an all or nothing approach isn’t the best option. Instead of one number to hit, is there value in stepped improvement? There is. Moving to a 10% increase in productivity, while pushing towards a 30% overall, is a win. Maybe assigning a portion of incentive-based pay for such a milestone is appropriate. Everything wouldn’t have to wait for the end of year funnel. 

Think through these initial steps and challenge the reliability of the current year-end process. Fight the characterization funnel and move beyond old school thinking. There are 12 months in a year. 12. Share the love throughout the year.

November 18, 20203456 Comments

Lust for Life

The idea of going can be a difficult one. Yes, there may be enthusiasm for what next adventure or reality awaits, but the act of going requires fortitude. Some may say it’s just one foot in front of the other; others find it paralyzing as they fret over what might be. It does not feel the same for everyone involved. Even in this, some are late bloomers, some peak early. Regardless, moving forward is challenging.

COVID, the political landscape, the economy...take your pick from these or a host of others for 2020 and you’ll have some sense of why the difficulty in going is strong. The offbeat comedy, The Royal Tenenbaums, dealt with roadblocks of the unknown and unmotivated. Each character, flawed to the extreme, found themselves stymied and hovering. Taking that next step was debilitating. Some characters had found success early in life, while some were waiting for any success. None of them knew how to cope, plan and move forward.

The 4th quarter of a calendar year opens the door to creatively plan for the following year. Approaching the newness with goals, objectives, vision, mission updates, etc. feels more natural. It’s like hyped-up resolutions, but these have teeth and real heart. They become mantras and signposts. They need your attention to develop.

Developing this vision takes effort. While there are an abundance of tools out there to help you, a favorite from Pepperdine University may be the best one to start with as a newbie. The purpose is not to outline every single goal you have, but rather, to define what the overall trajectory of your life is to be about, whether immediate (under 5 years) or longer term. SMART Goals and the like will follow, but without the foundation of an ultimate truth to be run after, those goals can be disjointed and, sometimes, competing. The energy and effort expended should be used wisely and towards one main reality.

Goal setting is contextual; vision building is definitional.

In some ways, vision building is a mental health exercise. Taking an inventory of where you are, what is working, what isn’t working, what you thought would have been true about you by now, what surprises you about what’s true about you now and much more is emotional, vulnerable and cathartic. Allow yourself the freedom to travel these roads without judgement, but instead, with observation. Think of it as taking inventory. An inventory is merely taking stock of what’s there.

When I worked in retail, we had a semi-annual inventory for all locations. We would close early one night and get to counting stock. All we did was to count per SKU or per offering. We would itemize on a prescribed inventory tracking sheet and assemble them all into one binder for submission (Yes, it was paper. Yes, it was a long time ago). From there, leadership looked for both shrink issues (theft, loss) and “misses” in item selection (“we thought this product would be a hit and it wasn’t”). The evaluation and judgement came after the inventory. Do your work similarly.

It would have taken all night had the inventory counters stopped every time there were too many or too little of an item. “Oh gee, why didn’t we sell more of the red version of this? I am so surprised. Seems like people loved the blue one. But the red seems more appealing to me. I wonder why. Michael, what do you think?” You see? Hours. Take the initial count and wait on the evaluation.

You’ll find that understanding what your value system, fulfillment quotient and invested time allotment are set the table for healthy analysis and judgement. Crafting your vision from this build of information and evaluation ought to flow naturally.

Victories of the past, where a vision was achieved, cannot be our focus forever. Celebration is wonderful and healthy (always) but staying at the party long after it ended moves us from jubilation to stagnation. It’s no longer about a lust for life but about glory days. Time to move on.

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November 5, 20204821 Comments

Do You Hear the People Sing?

Gridlock has stymied countless organizations, governments and relationships. The unwavering “dig-in” of sides or individuals where blockades are erected to show how much certain ideas and position matter.  And to be fair, some of these blockades do matter. Values are real and ought to cause both protective and assertive action. The people will rise, hopefully, ready to compromise.

Every time I see the makeshift blockade from Les Miserables, I sit in awe. Random pieces of furniture – tables, chairs, bureaus – along with rugs, logs, crates and more come together as a symbol of tenacity, fortitude and commitment. Those rebellious front-runners stood on values of health and opportunity. They rose in opposition to the government that would not help secure them, and in some ways, fostered degradation. Dig in, Revolutionaries, dig in.

However, we cannot break desks and chairs daily in our organizational communication and dynamics efforts, at least not daily. Is everything blockade-worthy?

What is Compromise?

Compromise is a valuable ally, and it is one whose value has been untapped in many companies. Some organizations have labeled success in compromise when, despite initially having just one choice, three kinds of requested K-Cups are available to staff. Accommodation is not the same as compromise. According to Gottman Institute research, “Compromise never feels perfect. Everyone gains something and everyone loses something.” That’s how compromise works.

Compromise in Organizations

In an organizational dynamic, compromise is the right alignment of influence bartering. There are ways individuals, departments and divisions can have their needs handled by the supportive influence of other individuals, departments and divisions. The very best managers recognize that their influence is directly connected to their willingness and acceptance of others’ influence. Compromise is dependent upon how and when this influence is exercised by each and all parties connected.

It’s in this way that compromise is different than cooperation. Pulling together towards a common goal or affirmed value is, by practice, what good cooperation looks like. I mean, how many of those team building retreats do you have to go on to learn this one? Don’t drop this dude, link arms, bend at the knees. If the principles of compromise are applied here in addition, in order for the desired cooperation to occur, compromise in methodology, amount of effort and dismount tactic will happen. No one person may have his/her/their way met completely.

That’s usually the sign of immaturity in your companies. Which supervisor has a “my way or the highway” attitude? Better, which C-Suite leader has a “my way or the highway” course of repeated action? Ouch. You know it happens. The art of compromise is lost on this influential individual and in its wake a lack of trust and a lack of care settle in by those around such a leader. The question asked by that leader should not be one of “Are you going to go my way?” but rather “Which ways are value-centric rather than preferential?” There can be a canyon of difference in the answers to the latter.

Directed Influence

Those blockades might be ready for dismantling while some may need reinforcement. Compromise is not about weakness; it is about directed influence. The “growing up” of management is sorely lacking in some of the smallest and largest organizations today. Address it with a real roadmap which includes an understanding of what matters and how compromise fits. Teach leaders how to survey the “land” and observe the signs. Ask them, “Do you hear the people sing?”

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October 21, 202011124 Comments

Wake Me Up

It seems that the COVID pandemic has brought out some interesting (safe word) binge-watching choices. And while no judgment is being passed (ok, likely a mild form of it is but it will not appear in this blog), the choices made in the Baldino household has run the gamut. Walking into the family room might find “The West Wing” or “Jane the Virgin” or “New Girl” on full display. And while I get ready to re-watch “The Mandalorian” Season 1, there is one show that was on quite often that did surprise me – “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Netflix offered this aminated series and, apparently, many watched. The child hero, Aang, destined to unite the various tribes and kingdoms at conflict was not quite ready to do so upon waking up from his deep freeze. While not spoiling the adventure for you, Aang spends much of his time training and developing while having adventures along the way.

Often the training and development combo is thrown out there together, but most times, the distinction between the two is misunderstood. In its simplest form, training is about learning and practicing a specific skill or technique, usually to perform a task or to complete a job. Development is about more holistic growth for an individual, inclusive of a training regimen.

A baseball player, for example, can train to get better at hitting. Physically, the stance can be altered, the grip can be changed, the hip motion can be addressed, all under specific repetitive training sessions. The batter will be tasked with applying these new approaches to each up at the plate, and to do so, the batter will need to practice these skill improvement recommendations. This is the heart of training – what is something new to know, something additional to get better at what I know or what I do, and something that will improve my performance.

However, becoming better at batting does not make a better overall baseball player. Yes, in part, that player may get better in a specific area, but the development of the whole person as a better ball player will be found in the application of many areas of training as well as in the non-physical approach to the game. Knowing and understand the philosophy of various baseball strategies, being able to determine an opposing team’s choice of strategy, being able to predict plays and how to best play offensively and defensively are all developmental growth opportunities. Certainly, there will be training involved in the developmental process, but the rest of the growth comes through an expansion of critical thinking and viable application of relevant and timely competencies.

The experiences a person has to apply the philosophical considerations and tactical trainings will forge a path to development. In a business context, there can be a shortsightedness to expect training to concurrently lead to development. It is an unrealistic expectation that can frustrate managers when they don’t see the “full return” for the training offered. Challenge the premise rather than the training, frankly. We see various anti-sexual harassment training completed by tens of thousands of employees, for example, and yet we do not have fully developed individuals putting that training into effect. Merely completing the training may not affect the outcomes desired.

Aang had to train to get better at the four bending disciplines. He practiced, learned new techniques, tweaked some hand motions and watched those better than he for pointers. These areas were important, but it also took realistic job preview moments to solidify the mental and emotional components necessary for his development into the Avatar. Training, yes. Development, more yes. Yip Yip!