Showing posts with label empowerment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label empowerment. Show all posts

April 7, 2019

Bar Mitzvah Speech Page 3

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Bar Mitzvah Speech Page 3."
I wondered to myself how come this bar mitzvah boy didn’t end his speech with the traditional thank you to: my loving mother and father, my dear grandparents, my annoying brothers and sisters, and all my terrific uncle and aunts who came from Israel, Europe, and Canada to be with me here on this special day? There was none of that, and I was puzzled — how can he not thank everyone who made this day possible?
This was a true lesson about always being prepared and resilient, because that is what true empowerment is all about. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 23, 2019

My Fun Socks





Just wanted to share some of my new fun socks. 

You don't always have to take yourself so serious. 

It's okay to let go and just be you. 

From Dragon Ball Z to Super Mario, I feel so empowered!

Hope you do too.  ;-)

(Source Photo:  Andy Blumenthal)
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April 12, 2018

Leave The Bad Bosses Behind

So an executive colleague reminded me of something about bad bosses:
People don't leave jobs, they leave [bad] bosses.
It's very interesting and so often true. 

Of course, people leave for all sorts of reasons, but one of the most important aspects of job satisfaction for employees is their boss!

When you have a good boss--someone with integrity, good communications, trustworthy, fair, and who empowers, develops, and supports you then that goes a very long way towards positive employee engagement and retention. 

However, when the boss is a bad apple and usually everyone knows it, then there is often a mass exit out the organizational door. 

Occasionally, the organizational culture is bad too, and that attracts those bad bosses, promotes their bad behavior, and keeps their bad butts in the corner office seats--this situation is even worse because bad culture and people are mutually reinforcing. 

For the good people out there, leave the bad bosses behind and never look back. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 12, 2018

The Culture Key To Organizational Success

As I continue to learn more about organizational success strategies, I am coming to understand that the underlying culture of the organization is so very fundamental to its success.

I believe this is especially the case in terms of three critical competency areas:

- Communication - needs to be timely, constructive, multi-directional, and with emotional intelligence.

- Trust - must be be based on honesty and integrity including consistently supporting the success of everyone professionally and as a organization. 

- Collaboration - must be be anchored in respecting, valuing, empowering, and rewarding each and every person for their views and the contributions, both individually and as team members, and in treating diversity and collaboration, as a true force-multiplier. 

If any of these elements are missing or broken then it does not seem to me that the organization will be able to be successful for the long term.

Organizational success is built on ingredients that strengthen the ties of leadership and individuals and that foster contribution as individuals and as team members. 

No amount of smart, innovative, and even hard work, in my mind, will make up for shortfalls in these critical organizational success factors. 

So when planning for organizational success, make sure to build these in from the get-go. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 4, 2016

Manage As A Mensch

So I was watching Shark Tank and they gave an update on how one of the products, "Mensch on a Bench," is doing.

It's selling in Bed, Bath, and Beyond and has exceeded 100,000 units already!

Aside from the doll and book, they are working on Mensch apps, activity kits, and candy bars. 

The founder said, "It is hilarious and heartwarming to see all the different ways that families can incorporate Mensches into their lives."

This got me thinking about how being a mensch can also be incorporated into being a great manager!

- Treating people decently and fairly

- Empowering them to do their jobs well

- Empathizing with them as human beings

- Appreciating the power of diversity

- Respecting everyone and their points of view

- Recognizing and rewarding a job well done

Unfortunately, there are too many bad bosses out there that micromanage and abuse their people. 

They are arbitrary and dictatorial and never ask what anyone else thinks; they dump the work on their people, but don't lend a hand; they steal their ideas and take credit for their work; on top of it, they might even then stab them in the back when they're not looking; ah, forget about showing any sort of appreciation or kindness--it's dog eat dog. 

Hence, being a mensch first is a management must!

Think about people, not as a means to an end, but as an end unto themselves--they are souls interacting with your soul. 

Kindness, compassion, empathy...but keep your eyes on the important work and mission you are doing.

Get it done together, as a team, collaboratively, and with everyone contributing towards the endgame. 

(Live and) manage as a mensch! ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Bed, Bath, and Beyond)
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October 13, 2016

Feminism For Our Mothers and Daughters

In any language feminism should mean empowerment, equality, and respect for women. 

What's going on with the election though seems wrong--feminism is not for sale for votes!

Neither gender nor any other demographic factor such as race, religion, color, sexual orientation and so forth, should be used to garner votes. 

In this election, the mud slinging has run the gamut with accusations of "racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobia, you name it."

It would be nice if people would stay focused on the issues and the future of the country and our people. 

While the candidates and campaigners claim that "when they go low, we go high," the truth is we see things daily going low, low, and lower bringing out tapes and accusers just weeks before the election.

This doesn't seem to be about true feminism, but about destroying candidates and untold greed for the seat of government power.

In the meantime, while we scare everyone into believing the worst about the candidates, the rest of the world's issues from national security to the economy is lost in the translation.

Feminism is a truly critical for the fair and proper treatment of our wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, and grandmothers.

What we still see in many countries around the world today is horrifying and abhorrent where women are not only treated completely subservient to men but are abducted, sold, prostituted, gang raped, abused and undergo lashings, stonings, and honor killings. 

But if we let people misappropriate feminism for electioneering, then what will be left for the women that really need freedom, equality, and protection under the law.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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August 1, 2015

Good Can (And Will) Overcome Evil


Beautiful video showing that good can overcome evil. 

Next video is where the woman (empowered) takes down the would be attackers herself--with a big time, well-deserved smackdown!

Where on the right track. ;-)
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September 11, 2012

Radiate Possibilities

Today, I had the opportunity to see one of the best leadership videos I have ever seen, called "Leadership: An Art of Possibility." 


It features Ben Zander, an Orchestra Conductor who is not just a leader of making music, but of driving people to excellence.

Zander's passion and energy bring out the best in people--and you can literally see them transformed as their playing comes alive, their faces shine, and they glow under coaching of this conductor extraordinaire. 

His leadership principles are:

- Speak possibility--create a shift in being (transformation) by seeing the possibility in everyone, and lead people by empowering, not commanding; help people get in touch with their inner passion, so they remember why they love what they do and why it is ultimately important.

- Quiet the inner voices--communicate that everyone can get an A and everyone has value; assume the best of everyone, eliminate the fear of judgement, barriers, and mindset of "I can't do it," so people can genuinely perform. 

- Enroll every voice in the vision--make every person feel and realize that they can contribute and make a difference on our journey together; shift from a mindset of pure individuals to that of living in a connected world; like in a symphony-- we create a "sounding together."

- Look for shining eyes and radiating faces--you know you are positively reaching people and impacting them when their eyes and face light up; and you need to ask yourself what you are missing, when you aren't getting this guttural reaction. 

- Rule #6 ("the only rule")--Don't take yourself so %@&$! seriously; mistakes happen and life goes on; really feel the joy, relief, ease, spontaneity, and community around what we do. 

The art of possibility is a paradigm shift where we move from having an external standard to live up to, and instead move to fulfilling the possibility we can live into. 

In essence, Zander's leadership philosophy is about removing the barriers that inhibit us and releasing our deep inner talents, so we can achieve our marvelous potentials--and self-actualize. 

As Zander states: the conductor actually does not make a sound, yet by empowering people, he leads them to make the most beautiful music together. 

If you get a chance to watch this video, I believe it is extremely valuable because the passion, love, and energy that Zander demonstrates turns every face into a presence radiating their own joy and excellence--it is truly leadership unleashed. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 16, 2012

Big and Small--Who's Who?

Yesterday, I go into a store with my daughter to shop for a new iPhone case.

A clean-cut kid--maybe 13 years old--comes out from behind the counter and asks me what I'm looking for.

I chat with the boy for a few minutes about their products and the prices of the various items--and I was genuinely impressed with this kid's "business savvy."

Sort of suddenly, a larger man emerges, whom I assume to be the boy's father.

Making conversation and being friendly, I say to the man, "Your son is a very good salesman."

The father responds surprisingly, and says, "Not really, he hasn't sold you anything yet!"

Almost as abruptly, he turns and stumps away back behind the counter.

I look back over at the kid now, and he is clearly embarrassed, but more than that his spirit seems broken, and he too disappears behind the counter.

My daughter and I look at each other--shocked and upset by the whole scene--this was a lesson not only in parenting gone wrong, but also in really poor human relations and emotional intelligence.

As a parents, teachers, and supervisors, we are are in unique positions to coach, mentor, encourage, and motivate others to succeed.

Alternatively, we can criticize, humiliate, and discourage others, so that they feel small and perhaps as if they can never do anything right.

Yes, there is a time and place for everything including constructive criticism--and yes, it's important to be genuine and let people know when they are doing well and when we believe they can do better.

I think the key is both what our motivations are and how we approach the situation--do we listen to others, try and understand their perspectives, and offer up constructive suggestions in a way that they can heard or are we just trying to make a point--that we are the bosses, we are right, and it'll be our way or the highway.

I remember a kid's movie my daughters used to watch called Matilda and the mean adult says to Matilda in this scary way: "I'm big and your small. I'm smart and your dumb"--clearly, this is intimidating, harmful, and not well-meaning.

Later in the day, in going over the events with my daughter, she half-jokingly says, "Well maybe the kid could've actually sold something, if they lowered the prices" :-)

We both laughed knowing that neither the prices nor the products themselves can make up for the way people are treated--when they are torn down, rather than built up--the results are bad for business, but more important they are damaging to people.

We didn't end up buying anything that day, but we both came away with a valuable life lesson about valuing human beings and encouraging and helping them to be more--not think of themselves as losers or failures--even a small boy knows this.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Allen Ang, and these are not the people in the blog story.)


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July 3, 2011

What's Relationships Got To Do With It

Professional_networking

It is said that one of the key differences between leaders and staff is that leaders are supposed to spend significantly more time on relationships, while staff tend to concentrate on the task at hand.

A number of professors from the University of Virginia indicated that leaders who didn't spend at least 50% of their time and effort on relationship building, tended to be much less successful professionally.

According to them, there are 3 areas of professional competence--i.e. necessary skill-sets:

1) Technical--what you need to know in terms of subject matter expertise to do your job (e.g. finance, engineering, sales, etc.)

2) Cognitive--these are the information-processing abilities to reason and problem-solve (e.g. perception, learning, judging, insight, etc.)

3) Relationship--this is interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence (e.g. teaming, motivating, resolving-conflict, influencing, etc.)

As you role changes from staff to supervisor and to manager, so does your time spent:

- Staff: Technical 60%, Cognitive 20%, Relationships 20%

- Supervisors: Technical 40%, Cognitive 25%, Relationships 35%

- Manager: Technical 15%, Cognitive 35%, Relationships 50%

In others words, as you advance from staff to management, you job changes from being the "technical expert" to spending more time solving specific problems and building relationships.

Additionally, managers who delegated, supported, trusted, and empowered, and didn't micromanage the tasks--we're the kinds of managers/leaders that people wanted to work for and would give more of themselves to.

So leaders who excel at building meaningful professional relationships, benefit not only from developing important and trusting networks of people around them, but also from actually developing a more satisfied and productive workforce.

Relationship building is much more than the proverbial "3-martini lunch,"--although 1 or 2 don't hurt :-)--rather it means:

1) Identifying and surrounding yourself with people that are smarter than yourself--relationships are most fruitful and enjoyable with someone that can challenge you.

2) Reaching outside your "normal" boundaries (organizational, functional, industry, geography) to diversify the sphere of influence--new ideas and best practices are not limited to any one domain.

3) Ensuring that integrity and trust are cornerstones of any any relationship--there is no compromising values and principles for any relationship!

4) Giving of yourself in terms of self-disclosure, assistance to others, and our most precious resource of time--relationships are not built on thin air, but involve work by both parties; it's an investment.

Finally, while relationship-building is critical to leadership success, it is important to surround ourselves with the "right" people as Harvard Business Review (July-August 2011) states this month: "Bring people with positive energy into your inner circle. If those around you are enthusiastic, authentic, and generous, you will be too."

So choose your professional network as carefully as you would choose your friends.

(Source Photo: here)

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July 1, 2011

Soft Skills Complement Hard Work

Having professionally been around the block a couple of times now over a 25 year career, I can say with some conviction that soft skills are some of the hardest and most important things that you learn and which you need to succeed both personally and professionally.
Soft skills are often equated with emotional intelligence and interpersonal aptitude.
They includes a broad range of abilities--everything from diplomacy to dependability, social graces to skilled communications, conflict resolution to constructive feedback, and friendliness to relationship-building.
People with soft skills are able to work well with others whether they are influencing, selling, negotiating, strategizing, or problem-solving.
As a manager, soft skills also involve effectively delegating and empowering your people to perform and feel good about their jobs.
While soft skills emphasize relationships, hard skills focus on the task.
One mistake many people make is that in an effort to get a task done in the short-term, they sacrifice important long-term relationships--i.e. people burn their proverbial bridges, which makes getting things done over the long-term much more difficult, if not impossible, and also not very enjoyable--since you've just alienated your most important asset, your team!
Essentially, the key to soft skills is to treat people with respect and goodwill, always!
The Wall Street Journal (5 May 2011) describes how some top business school around the country are "getting it"--providing their students with soft skills business courses.
Schools like Columbia, Stamford, and University of California at Berkeley are teaching their students not only accounting and finance, but also the "soft skills...important in molding future business leaders."
Additionally, in my experience, post-graduate leadership courses such as from Dale Carnegie Training, The Center for Creative Leadership, and others provide solid soft skills training background.
However, in my opinion, the real learning takes place in the classroom of life--when dealing not only with colleagues, but also with family and friends--when you see what works and what doesn't.
We are all connected to one another--as children of G-d and neighbors in the global community, and the way we get along underpins our hard skill successes.
Soft skills should never be equated with being easy, "sissy," or unimportant--the investments you make in people are the most important investments you'll ever make.

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June 11, 2011

The Internet: A Right and a Responsibility

Poverty_computer

Good Online is reporting (10 June 2011) that the “U.N. Declares Internet Access a Human Right.”

According to the U.N. report, “The Internet has become a key means by which individuals exercise their right to freedom of expression.”

But as Good points out, this is not just a “third-world concern,” since even in America those without high-speed access cannot adequately perform certain functions “and that surely this affects their ability to get informed, educated, and employed.”

The U.N. is pushing for more protections for people to “assert themselves freely online,” but Good proposes that Internet access means more than just freedom of expression, but also the right to more public Wi-Fi access, better access to technology in libraries and I would assume in schools as well.

Interestingly enough, just on Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg of NYC and AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson announced that as part of NYC’s “Road Map for the Digital City,” they were launching a five-year initiative for free Wi-Fi service at 20 NYC parks—this is seen as a “critical developmental tool” for children, families, and communities.

The Internet stands alone as a technology that is now a “human right.” Radios, televisions, and telephones—none of these have that status. Yes, we have freedom of speech, but the technologies that enable them are not seen as a human right.

Similarly, access to the printing press (i.e. the technology for printing) itself is not a human right—rather, freedom of press (i.e. expression through print) is.

Do we not communicate and express ourselves over radio, TV, telephone, and other technologies as we do over the Internet? Do we not get information from them and through them? Do we not reach out with them to others both nationally and globally as we do over Net?

The answer to all of these is of course, we do.

So what is distinct about the Internet that the mere access to it is declared a human right?

I believe it is the fact that the Internet is the first technology whose very access enables the protection of all the other human rights, since it empowers EVERYONE to hear and speak from and to the masses about what is going in—whether in the tumultuous streets of the Arab Spring to the darkest prisons silencing political dissent.

While radio and television, in their time, were important in getting information and entertainment, but they were essentially unidirectional modes of communication and these can be manipulated by the powers that be. Similarly, the telephone while important to bridging communications over vast distances was for the most part constrained between two or at most a few individuals conversing. And publishing was limited to the realm of the professionals with printing presses.

In contrast, the Internet enables each person to become their own TV producer (think YouTube), radio announcer (think iTunes), telephone operator (think Skype) or publisher (think websites, blogs, wikis, etc.).

The Internet has put tremendous power into the hands of every individual. This is now a declared right. With that right, there is a tremendous responsibility to share information and collaborate with others for the benefit of all.

Of course, as a powerful tool of expression, the Internet can also be used malevolently to express hatred, racism, bigotry, etc. and to malign other people, their thoughts or opinions. Of course, it can also be used to steal, spy, hack, and otherwise disrupt normal civilization.

So we also all have the responsibility to behave appropriately, fairly, and with dignity to each other on the Internet.

While I applaud the U.N. for declaring the Internet a human right, I would like to see this expanded to include both a right and responsibility—this to me would be more balanced and beneficial to building not only access, but also giving and tolerance.

(Photo Source: WorldVisionReport.org)


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May 15, 2011

Hooray For Motivation

Much has been written about the importance of meaning in driving a productive and motivated workforce.

Already in 1964, Frederick Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory differentiated work satisfiers (aka motivators) such as challenging work, achievement, and responsibility, from dis-satisfiers (aka hygiene factors) such as the absence of status, job security, adequate salary/benefits, and pleasant work conditions.

In other words, motivation is driven primarily by the underlying meaningful and the productive work, not by the context of the work such as the money and fringe benefits.

In that vein, Harvard Business Review in "A Spotlight on Productivity" in May 2011 describes how poor managers "unwittingly drain work of its meaning"--in essence destroying their employees motivation and their productivity.

1) Trivializing Your Workers Input--"managers may dismiss the importance of employees work or ideas." In a sense, this one is about marginalizing employees, their creativity, and their contributions and is extremely destructive to the employees and the organization.

2) Decoupling Employee Ownership From Their Work--"Frequent and abrupt reassignments often have this affect." Also, not assigning clear roles and responsibilities to projects can have this affect. Either way, if employees don't have ownership of their projects, then the productivity will suffer amidst the workplace chaos and lack of ultimate accountability for "your work."

3) The Big Black Hole--"Managers may send the message that the work employees are doing will never see the light of day." In other words, employees are just being forced to "spin their wheels" and their is truly no purpose to the "shelfware" they are producing.

4) Communication, Not--Managers "may neglect to inform employees about unexpected changes in a customers priorities" or a shift in organizational strategy due to changes in internal or external market drivers. When employees don't know that the landscape has shifted and moreover are not involved in the decision process, they may not know what has changed, why, or feel invested in it. Without adequate communication, you will actually be leaving your employees blind and your organization behind.

So while it is tempting to think that we can drive a great work force through pay, benefits and titles alone, the lesson is clear...these are not what ultimately attracts and retains a talented and productive work force.

The magic sauce is clear--help your work force to know and feel two things:

1) Their work--is ultimately useful and usable.

2) That they--are important and have a future of growth and challenge.

When they and their work mean something, they will get behind it and truly own it.

In short: mean something, do something.

To get this outcome, I believe managers have to:

1) Make the meaning explicit--Identify your customers, the services you are providing, and articulate why it is important to provide these.

2) Determine strengths and weaknesses of each employee and capitalize on their strengths, while at the same time coach, mentor, and train to the weaknesses.

3) When workers go "off track," be able to give them constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement without demeaning and demoralizing them.

4) Find the inner strength and self confidence not to be threatened by your employees actually doing a good job and being productive--that's ultimately what you've hired them for!

5) Recognize the importance of everyone's contributions--It is not a one-person show, and it takes a bigger boss to recognize that other people's contributions don't take away from their own.

6) Be a team and communicate, honestly and openly--information hoarding and being the smartest one in the room is an ego thing; the best leaders (such as Jack Welch) surround themselves with people that are smarter than them and information is something to be leveraged for the team's benefit, not weaponized by the individual.

There are more, but this is just a blog and not a book...so hopefully more to come on this topic.

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October 23, 2010

Beyond The Stick

Over a number of years, I’ve seen different management strategies for engaging employees. At their essence, they typically amount to nothing more than the proverbial “carrot and stick" approach: Do what you’re supposed to do and you get rewarded, and don’t do what your superiors want and you get punished.

Recently, the greater demands on organizational outputs and outcomes by shareholders and other stakeholders in a highly competitive global environment and souring economy has put added pressure on management that has resulted in

the rewards drying up and the stick being more widely and liberally used.

Numerous management strategists have picked up on this trend:

For example, in the book, No Fear Management: Rebuilding Trust, Performance, and Commitment in the New American Workplace, Chambers and Craft argue that abusive management styles destroy company morale and profitability and should be replaced by empowerment, communication, training, recognition, and reward.

In another book, Driving Fear Out of the Workplace: Creating the High Trust, High Performance Organization, Ryan and Oestreich confront how “fear permeates today’s organizations” and is creating a pandemic of mistrust that undermines employee motivation and commitment.

I can’t help but reflect that the whole concept of managing employees by the carrot and stick approach is an immature and infantile approach that mimics how we “manage” children in pre-school who for example, get an extra snack for cleaning up their toys or get a demerit for pulling on little Suzy’s hair.

As leaders, I believe we can and must do better in maturing our engagement styles with our people.

Regular people coming to work to support themselves and their families and contribute to their organizations and society don’t need to be “scared straight.” They need to be led and inspired!

Monday’s don’t have to be blue and TGIF doesn’t have to be the mantra week after week.

People are naturally full of energy and innovation and productivity. And I believe that they want to be busy and contribute. In fact, this is one of life’s greatest joys!

Leaders can change the organizational culture and put an end to management by fear. They can elevate good over evil, win the hearts and minds of their people, and put organizations back on track to winning performance.


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July 10, 2010

Let Our People Think!

The leaders, planners, architects, and consultants in the proverbial ivory tower have become a poignant metaphor for what ails our organizations.

The elitist “thinkers” go into seclusion, come up with the way ahead for the organization, and then proclaim to everyone else what should be done and how it should be done—to be successful.

How nice. The “know-it-alls” tell everyone else (who obviously don’t know anything) how to do their jobs. Isn’t that empowering (not!)?

Harvard Business Review (July-August 2010) has a great article called “The Execution Trap” about the failure of the traditional strategy-execution model where executives dictate the strategy and expect everyone below to mechanically carry it out.

The strategy-execution model is analogous to the human body, where the brain instructs the body parts what to do. The executives choose what to do and the employees are treated as the brainless doers.

Typically executives take advantage of this separation of strategy and execution by patting themselves on the back for a “brilliant strategy” when results are good, but blaming the employees for “failed execution” when results come in poor.

Of course, in this thoughtless and thankless management model, employees feel disconnected, helpless, hopeless, and “invariably, employees decide simply to punch their time cards rather than reflect on how to make things work better for their corporation and its customers.” In the management model, employees are not true partners with leadership and they know it and act accordingly.

As a result, leadership turns to hiring outside consultants rather than working with their own organization, making what appears as “unilateral and arbitrary” decisions and this ends up alienating employees even further. It becomes a vicious cycle of alienation and hostility, until the entire capacity to strategize and execute completely breaks down.

HBR puts forward an alternative to this called the choice-cascade model, in which executives make “abstract choices involving larger, longer-term investments, whereas the employees…make more concrete day-to-day decisions that directly influence customer service and satisfaction.”

The metaphor here is of a whitewater river, where upstream choices set the context for those downstream. But the key is that “senior managers empower workers by allowing them to use their best judgment in the scenarios they encounter,” rather than just throwing a playbook of policies and procedures at them to follow dutifully and mindlessly—without application, deviation, or even emotion.

In the choice-cascade model, “because downstream choices are valued, and feedback is encouraged, the framework enables employees to send information back upstream” and as such employees play an important role in the initial strategy development.

The big difference in the two models is in the support that we can expect to get from our employees. In the strategy-execution model, where executives pit themselves against employees, you end up with employees that are alienated and do only what they have to do. In contrast, in the choice-cascade model, where executive and employees team to develop the strategy and then empower employees at every level to execute on it—responsibly and with a sense of ownership—everyone not only does what they are told, but they do what needs to be done to be jointly successful.

Which organization would you want to work in?


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July 3, 2010

Moving Beyond The Blame Game

Leaders have a choice about the messages they convey to their followers—they can empower people to take ownership and sometimes risk, or they can promote “CYA” as the corporate mantra.

This is the subject of a new article in Psychology Today (July/August 2010), “Just Don’t Do It,” by Dr. Art Markman.

The article provides an explanation of how people fall into the trap of risk-aversion. Essentially, when the outcome of an action causes trouble, the person performing the action is assumed to have negative intentions, and more or less, be automatically blamed. This leads people to assume the stance that “silence is golden” and avoid “trouble.”

Markman provides the analogy of a boy who gets blamed for throwing a ball and breaking a window, while the girl he threw it to averts blame:

- “The boy is definitely going to get in trouble. He threw the ball…what about the girl, though? She watched as the ball passed over her head...perhaps she could have done something that would have stopped the ball from hitting the window.”

- “This tendency to blame outcomes on actions rather than inactions [is called] the omission bias.”

Especially in a tough economy, people can easily get timid in the workplace because of the “omission bias.” Everyone is afraid of losing prestige, power, and even their paychecks, if they but open their mouths or make a mistake. And if leaders do not intervene, the result can be employee complacency and inaction.

This is reminiscent of the saying that “it is better to be silent and have people think you are a fool, then to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

What a waste of our organization’s most precious asset—people!

Rather than drawing on our employees’ education, skills and experience to promote organizational growth, we squelch them in the name of “going along to get along.” They learn to “toe the line.”

Part of the problem is that organizations frown on failure, which is a necessary component of learning. We blame people for every mistake rather than celebrating their willingness to try.

The result is that we end up with a workforce so cautious and risk-averse that it stunts our ability to compete. Unfortunately then, our people are like rats who have been shocked into a submission that we don’t really want or intend. Then we wonder why it seems like there is a lot of “dead weight.”

So is blame all bad? Of course not, because accountability and the assignment of responsibility go together.

However, there is a tendency to distort the tool of accountability and take it too far. “The blame game” prevents leaders from harnessing people’s creativity and productivity.

We need to ask ourselves what it is that we really want from our organizations. We can improve our organization’s engagement with their people by building trust versus suspicion, inclusion versus exclusion, and action versus inaction.


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November 8, 2008

Micromanagers and Enterprise Architecture

Human capital is such a critical aspect of our enterprises, yet in typical enterprise architectures (traditionally focused on IT and if we’re lucky maybe some business), it’s not seriously addressed.

Here’s an example of a major human capital issue and one that if dealt with sensitively and humanly could make a big difference in our organizations and toward productivity and innovation.

This issue that I am referring to is micromanagement.

How many people like to be micromanaged?

Of course, that’s a rhetorical question! Yet, micromanagement is a pervasive problem in our organizations. Twice this past month alone, articles have appeared in mainstream publications on this issue.

Here’s the first one. The October 20, 2008 issue of Federal Computer Week had an article entitled, “Are you a Micromanager?”

This piece recounted an FCW Insider Blog the prior month that asked “How could your agency or manager make you happier and more successful on your job?” To which, the first comments from a DoD employee was the following:

“We have no trust, therefore, we have micromanagement. Of course, there can be no empowerment for employees in this culture. Innovation and creativity are the enemies of senior management.”

Another read wrote:

“Because of the micromanagement, we spend up to 50 percent of our time proving that we are accountable by writing justifications and filling in data sheets showing that we are working!”

Here’s one more to think about:

“I resent being micromanaged as if I am a child, not a professional.”

Then on November 3, 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported “Micromanager Miss Bull’s-Eye.”

“Leadership experts say micromanagers…share an unwillingness to trust subordinates.”

Here’s what the authorities recommend:

“Clearly articulate expectations

Focus on hiring and placement of subordinates

Give employees decision-making power [as appropriate, of course]

Encourage questions and suggestions

Offer constructive feedback

Don’t grab the reins at the first sign of trouble”

The best managers provide meaningful and challenging work to their employees; facilitate the work, but do not actually do it for them; explain to employees what to do, but not how to do it; and let employees make mistakes and learn and grow from them.

To do this, managers needs to learn to have faith in people, listen to their employees, understand that employees are not only working on the project, but on their careers as well, make people feel safe to make honest mistakes, and of course, recognize and reward performance and promote diversity.

Mike Lisagor, a management consultant, put it well when he said: “Every manager can make a difference and the more enlightened the manager is, the more enlightened the organization will be.”

I agree with Mike. We need to change how we manage our human capital. As managers, and as organizations, we can and must do better. And I would suggest that we include this as part of our enterprise architecture efforts. The sooner, the better!


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