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Coaching B-Players

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on May.31, 2010, under Short Blogs

Coaching B-Players

Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

From B to A

 What pragmatic steps can you take to create a powerful Leadership and Personal Development Plan (L-PDP), one that is sufficient in scope to convert a B-player to an A-player and be embraced so totally by the B-player that it works!???

A huge credit for this blog goes to Brad Smart, whose highly influential concepts of Top-grading, ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ players, informed thinking behind this paper.

An ‘A-Player’ is a top performer – Someone who is in the top 10% of talent available for the pay. A-player contribute more to business growth and enhanced market share, innovate more, work smarter, earn more trust, show more resourcefulness, take more initiative, develop better strategies, articulate their vision more sharply and passionately, implement change more effectively, demonstrate greater teamwork, and find ways to get the job done faster and at with less cost. If a large proportion of your team is made of A-Players, you are on a route to success. But most teams operate at sub-optimal levels. We hire B-Players and compromise and accept C-Players. . We inherit teams of mixed ability, and we have to work with what we got.

Yet, not all is lost. This blog is about simple and pragmatic tools that turbo-boosts the motivation of someone to improve. In particular, the focus is on B-Players. By definition, B-Player are OK performers, they have strengths, but also clear development areas. The good thing about B-Players is that they can improve and be developed to become better performers and even turn into A-Players. All B-Players have deficiencies in certain areas, but almost all have capabilities in ‘neighbouring’ areas (e.g., intellect, enthusiasm), that can be harnessed, utilised, and realised to address the behavioural challenges the B-Player faces. Otherwise your coaching challenge is probably hopeless.

To appreciate whether you can turn a B-Player into an A-Player, consult the table below for a list of competencies grouped by the ease of changing and developing them.

  Relatively Easy to Change Harder to Change, But Doable Very Difficult to Change
HEAD Leading Edge; Education; Written Communication; Judgement; Strategic Skills Intellect; Analytical Skills; Creativity; Conceptual Ability
HEART Oral Communication; First Impression; Customer Focus; Political Savvy; Coaching and Training; Addressing Underperformance Likeability; Listening; Team Playing; Negotiation Skills; Persuasiveness Integrity; Assertiveness; Inspiring Others; Charisma;
HAND Goal Setting; Risk Taking; Experience; Planning and Organising Skills; Self-Awareness Track Record; Pragmatism; Resourcefulness; Excellence Standards; Independence; Stress Management; Adaptability Energy; Passion; Ambition; Tenacity

 If your B-Player needs to improve specific and concrete competencies, such as product knowledge, technical skills, or even ‘hard’ skills – the likes of such as planning and organising, project management, writing skills, running effective meetings, the coaching approach is pretty obvious. You sit down with B-Player and arrange tutoring, decide on job experiences, and plan on what courses the B-Player should take.

But this article deals with how to coach managers to be much better leaders, and that involves improving some “softer” competencies such as influential communication, inspiring others, change leadership, likability, public speaking, conflict management, and flexibility and adaptability.

Coaching Scenario

Consider the following coaching semi-fictitious scenario. Suppose you have just inherited a new team. Within a couple of weeks it becomes obvious that you have a mixed bag of talent, an A-Player, few B-Players, and also a couple of C-Players. One of the B-Players who caught your eye is John Blake, a bright, energetic, ambitious manager with some clear rough edges. He is seen as a ‘rough diamond’ – a young, smart, enthusiastic, ambitious, committed hard worker, but somewhat immature in his leadership approach; also, regardless of his talent he has fallen a bit short on his business.

Intrigued, you have studied his approach on yesterday’s management meeting. You have written down to yourself the following comments: although pushy, keen and ambitious, and driving himself to deliver results, he tolerates underperformance from his team members, giving people a third and fourth chances to improve, and when they don’t, all he does is complain about them — His enthusiasm and desire to get it right, translate to constant re-calibration and changing of direction. He seems to confuse his people with far too many changes to work processes and approaches to market, dropping initiatives and picking new ones on a regular basis (you have counted four new initiatives he described in the management meeting and after the meeting you have learnt from his colleagues about recent initiatives that were abandoned after first signs of difficulty – His treatment of his team members causes tension and bad morale. When they don’t “get it,” or show some scepticism about his ideas, he loses her cool, leaving his team members licking their wounds. Furthermore, so eager to please you, he takes credit for peers’ accomplishments, and clearly there is tension with those whose support he needs for his success.

John is willing to be coached, and you are hoping that if he embraces a thorough Leadership and Personal Development Plan (L-PDP), he will become an A-Player by exceeding his targets and business objectives and by showing more mature and effective leadership style. However, the notion of coaching B-Players is that this is not an endless process. You would need to see improvements to justify the efforts you invest. Like the infamous example of Jack Welch at GE, if he fails to achieve his agreed-upon business accountabilities, or if he continues to exhibit mediocre interpersonal and leadership behaviours, his performance will not be tolerated and he will have to quit, realising he will not keep his job – So once embarked on the L-PDP, it is Up-Or-Out.

Coaching Steps

There are five distinct steps for coaching B-Players.
Step #1 – A diagnostic Interview: Kick-start the coaching process with a 3-hour diagnostic interview. It is just like a job interview, only longer, far more methodical and systematic, and involves much deeper probing for evidence. Start with his current role, and move gradually to earlier roles and employers throughout John’s career history. For each of these, study his approach to the various role responsibilities. Analyse in details examples of success as well as examples of mediocre or poor performance. Delve into three areas:

  • ‘Head’ – His thinking style, decision making approach, quality of judgement. Search for factors that shape his evaluation and drive him into conclusions. 
  • ‘Heart’ – His interpersonal style, communication, leading people, and managing key relationships. Search for clues how he treat and view people of different personality make-up 
  • ‘Hand’ – His execution, implementation, and delivery style. How he makes things happen. Search for indications of his working style, planning skills, sense of urgency, effectiveness and efficiency, balancing quality with speed 

A worthwhile tip is to complement the diagnostic interview with professional on-line psychometric profiling. There are numerous consultancies that specialise in using psychometric instruments to profile individuals. The on-line profiling tends to take one to two hours, and by the end of it, the consultancy will provide you with a diagnostic report that offers an understanding of the individual, benchmarked assessment of work and leadership competencies, and a very clear indication of the areas you need to probe and be aware of.

By the end of the highly charged 3-hour diagnostic interview, you’ll learn about John’s every success and accomplishment, his failures and mistakes, and as important, you’ll get a clear indication of John’s self-awareness, capacity to recognise areas for improvement, and his ability to take these on board and actually improve.
You find out that John unfortunately has had bosses who left him alone and hardly coached him. Yet, he recognises his shortcomings and does see the need to improve his leadership, and he seems to respect you. So, you are with a good chance of transforming John to an A-Player.

Step #2 – Job Scorecard: Job scorecard is more than a summary of targets. It encompasses a complete job description with a summary of measurable accountabilities. Arrange a Job Scorecard meeting with John, and reach an agreement with John to achieve not only the business accountabilities objectives but also to demonstrate Very Good leadership competencies. More specifically, agree with John that he must achieve his business accountabilities, but also to achieving and maintaining an average score of 3.5 on a 6-point scale on the leadership accountabilities, as measured by an email survey of his team.

Step #3 – 360º Appraisal: Conduct an email survey of John’s team, colleagues, and if appropriate also clients. This will establish baselines for the areas for improvement. John should send an email to subordinates and peers saying,

“I’m working with (new boss – you!) to create a Leadership and Personal Development Plan that I hope will strengthen my leadership skills. We’re creating an anonymous survey I’d like you to complete, and (new boss) will also be scheduling one-on-one talks with each of you; these too are anonymous and confidential. (New boss) will not disclose who said what to him, so please be candid with (new boss). He will ask you four basic questions – 1. What are my strengths, 2. What are my weaker points, 3. What are my career potentials, and 4. What is your best advice for how I can maximize my performance and growth? Thank you!”

Design the email survey. Include about twenty behavioural statements that emerge from your diagnostic interview. Create a balance between areas where you assess john to be strong with areas where he shows some weakness. Ask the respondents to rate john on each of the items, and supplement their ratings with a specific behavioural example that demonstrate the most extreme positive rating and the most extreme negative rating.

I tend to use the item stem – “How would you rate John on… and require participant to give their ratings on a 6-point scale (with no middle point) that ranges from 0 to 5, where 0 equals to ‘Extremely poor’; 1 equals to ‘Weak’; 2 equals to ‘Below Average’ (or ‘Below the Line’); 3 equals to ‘Above Average’ (or ‘Above the Line’); 4 equals ‘Good’; and 5 equals ‘Exceptional’.

The following is a list of typical examples of items: Effective listening, Influential Communication; Patience; Professionalism; Emotional Control; Delegation; Empowerment; public Speaking; Clear Direction; Strategic Capacity; Patience; Team Playing; etc..

Supplement the email survey with confidential 30-minute discussion with each of John’s direct report and few of his peers. Repeat the purpose of the discussion and asked the four questions (as mentioned in John’s original email). Follow up questions so that you can get a real understanding of how John’s leadership strengths and weaker points are manifested in his behaviour.

Step #4 – Review of Findings: Meet with John to review the findings from the 360º appraisal (email and interview). Make this a dialog in which John is fully involved in analysing the results for every item, with the purpose of creating a draft Leadership and Personal Development Plan, a plan that will fortify his strengths and overcome his weaker points. Remind John that the minimum acceptable average rating for all items is 3.5 on the 6-point scale (zero to five).

John should read a sample L-PDP so he understands that the final form should say – What he intends to do, Why, When, and How the results will be measured. (Attached is Pat’s final Individual Development Plan, which you could show your B player as a sample.) Over the next couple of weeks john should finalise his L-PDP, but you must agree with it.

Step #5 – Coaching: The final step is the actual coaching. You need to coach John regularly. As his L-PDP states, you as the new boss will provide instant or daily feedback and coaching when the need is apparent, but also you have scheduled coaching sessions to thoroughly review everything John has done – his successes, any failures, and what if anything should be changed in his L-PDP. The scheduled coaching session should be at the maximum a monthly occurrence and at a minimum a quarterly event.

If John is failing to achieve either his business objectives or improvements in his leadership, you both will recognise it. To use Brad Smart’s analogy, “If someone has to pole vault 17 feet to make the Olympic team and is still at 15 feet AFTER getting a new pole, working with a sports psychologist, taking nutrition lessons, etc., well it’s pretty obvious that the measurable accountabilities aren’t going to be met.“

A fantastic tool that turbo-boast developmental efforts is the ‘Big Brother Camera’ (BBC) – The BBC is a metaphorical camera that tapes John all day, every day on the job and when his accountabilities for improvement are measured, his worst behaviour will be observed and if it’s really bad, it will cost John his job. That “camera” is the promise and knowledge of more 360º appraisals, as often as every 6 months. Here is an example how you can phrase it:

“John, think of yourself as if you are in the Big Brother house. You are constantly filmed and every move of yours is recorded. There is no hiding. Every day think that a camera is on you.  Now, let’s take one of your weaker points – emotional control. It scares the hell out of your people when you lose your temper and yell at them, and as you now know from reading the 360º appraisal report, your people retreat to their office, spend their time managing your emotional tantrums rather than doing their job, avoid you whenever they can, and are much less productive for days and days. And when you yell at them, they are more inclined to blame others, which impede teamwork. In your L-PDP you have agreed that you will achieve a score of 4  on Emotional Control, and here’s how to motivate yourself to stay on your good behaviour, think that the camera is on you, John, every moment of every day . Blow up even once in the next 6 months and everyone in the department will hear about it, and you’ll be rated low in Emotional Control. You can be on your best behaviour 99% of the time and one loud screaming episode will be remembered and your 360º appraisal results will suffer. And this is not all – there is a halo effect. Not only will your Emotional Control be rated low, but you can bet that just because of one time you ripped someone’s head off verbally, many other survey items such as Team Player, Inspiring Others, and Clear Direction will be rated lower.”

Jack Welch, the former chairman of General Electric, and one of the greatest advocates of this approach, took the extra step (how typical!) of saying, “You must make your numbers and exhibit the positive GE leadership values, or you get just one more chance and then you’re fired if you don’t achieve both.” Thank you, Jack!

By putting the threat of losing one’s job if someone fails either to achieve business results or demonstrate very good leadership competencies, managers become strongly motivated to follow through on their L-PDPs and a lot of B players move up to A player status.

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Working with You Is Killing Me: Part #3

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Apr.30, 2010, under Working with You Is Killing Me

Working with You Is Killing Me: Part #3

Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

Fatal Attraction 

How did it all go so wrong?
It had so much promise in the beginning…

This blog builds on Chapter 4 of Crowley & Elster book – ‘Working with You Is Keeling Me – published in 2006 by Warner Business Books.

When you first met, you felt drawn to that person; you were excited at the prospect of working together – there was something about that person that fulfilled a strong inner need within you. However, over time, interactions with this person left you emotionally exhausted and professionally frustrated – by now, you are dreading the next interaction. You spend your days and sleepless nights running conversations in your head, trying to understand the other person, thinking of ways of bringing the relationships to what it was in the past – but with no avail. No matter what you do, you cannot steer the relationships back to its vibrant beginning.

Fatal attraction refers to a more complex set of work relationships than the ones described in the first two chapters. In Fatal Attraction, the difficulty in sorting out the working relationships with a colleague stems from some inherited benefits that you gain while in the relationship. Fatal attraction is about working relationship that had great promise and excitement at the beginning, but grew more difficult over time. In fatal attraction, you still get from time to time the initial spark of the earlier stage of the relationship, and that promise keeps the relationship going although you know that the relationship is wrong and has devastating consequences for you.

Fatal attractions are confusing as it is hard to accept the sharp contrast between the early stages of the relationship and the current state. At first, they made you feel so exhilarated. You felt literally charged when you interacted with the person. Something about their personality enticed you, pulled you in. You may still have the same feeling from time to time, but the frequency of it is rapidly diminishing. You entered the relationships on an emotional high, but this turned into an emotional trap for you.

In this chapter we will explore four types of fatal attractions. Each stems from fulfilling a deep inherent need. First, we will meet the ‘Exploder’ who attracts those with need for approval from authority figures. Second, we will meet the ‘Perfectionist’ who attracts those with strong sense of insecurity about their capability, yet crave recognition to confirm their self-worth. Next, we will meet the ‘Back-Stabber’ who attracts those who yearn for admiration and respect from others. Finally, we will meet the ‘High Maintenance’ who attracts those who are natural caregivers with strong paternal instinct.

In all four cases, the build-up of the fatal attraction relationship goes through seven stages:

  1. Magnetism:  The honeymoon period, when the person is at their best and fulfil your deep inherent need
  2. Consumption: The relationship turns a corner. The person starts displaying their dark side
  3. Admittance: This is the first visible and undeniable downhill stage of the relationship. You have accepted that something is fundamentally wrong, and you spend your time running in your head interactions’ playback, rehearsing future conversations, and licking your wounds
  4. Obsession: This stage is the last attempt you make to recover the relationships. You become obsessed with trying to convert and change the other person. You spend hours fixated on what it will take to alter the other person’s behaviour
  5. Exhaustion:  At this stage you give up the proactive change attempts. You are emotionally exhausted. Any additional interaction just adds to your emotional fatigue
  6. Avoidance: You actively seek to avoid any further interaction. You develop the equivalent of an allergic reaction to the other person. This takes the form of an automatic physiological reaction to the other person. Your body involuntary responds when you hear their voice and get a glimpse of them. You experience physical distress in myriad of ways such as headaches, twitching, stiff muscles, neck pains…
  7. Learned Helplessness: At this stage you surrender all control over the relationship. You feel and behave like a helpless prisoner. You resigned to the negative treatment and can’t imagine a way out. You feel and become bitter and disillusioned. You are trapped in a no-win situation 

Although these stages are chronological, you may experience them in and out of sequence – or going forward and backward over several stages. This will particularly apply to stages four and five, where following one single positive incident with the other person, you may still attempt to rescue the relationship, even after you have promised yourself that you have given up on the relationship.

The Four Fatal Attractions

The fatal attractions tend develop in certain work relationships’ contexts:

  • The Exploder:  The ‘Exploder’ tends to have a position of formal authority; in most cases being the line manager of their ‘victim’
    • Attracts: People who like dynamic personalities – those who need approval from authority figures
  • The Perfectionist: The ‘Perfectionist’ tends to have a position where their role is to critique the work outcomes of their victim. It is common in both client-supplier relationships and in manager-subordinate relationships
    • Attracts: People who like being put on a pedestal – those with strong sense of insecurity about their capability
  • The Back-Stabber: The ‘Back-Stabber’ type tends to be found in collegial relationship, where the ‘Back Stabber’ is somewhat junior to their victim (e.g., Junior Consultant and a Senior Consultant). In many cases the victim acts as a mentor of the ‘Back Stabber’.
    • Attracts: People who crave praise – those who yearn for admiration and respect from others
  • The High Maintenance: The ‘High Maintenance’ is most common in collegial relationships of equals (e.g., two co-workers of the same rank)
    • Attracts: People who like to help others – those natural caregivers with strong parental instinct

In each case, the ‘victim’ experiences a key transition in the relationship:

  • The Exploder: Starts out as dynamic and charming; turns out into dynamite and volatile
    • Early symptoms: Exhibiting sudden, unexpected, yet short-lived explosive outbursts
  • The Perfectionist: Starts out as accepting and flattering; turns into pedantic control freak and fault finding
    • Early Symptoms: Pedantic and megalomaniac attempts to control you at the first signs of potential failure
  • The Back-Stabbing: Starts out as sweet talk, admiring, and semi-worshiping, turns into sabotage, conspiring, and back-stabbing
    • Early Symptoms: Unverified signs of betrayal and vilification
  • The High Maintenance: Starts as nice, trusting, and soul searching mate, turns into very needy and dependent
    • Early Symptoms: Regardless of large amounts of advice, no signs of acting on the advice

Each of the types displays elements or hints of mild clinical conditions, or what Robert Hogan calls a ‘dark side’. The clinical terms and Hogan’s ‘dark side’ terms are provided coupled with brief description of the types and their behaviour.

  • The Exploder = Borderline Personality
    • Hogan’s dark side term = Excitable >>> Inappropriate anger. Intense and unstable relationships, alternating between idealisation and devaluation.
  • The Perfectionist = Obsessive Compulsive
    • Hogan’s dark side term =Diligent >>> Obsessive occupation with structure, orderliness, process, rules, control and procedures
  • The Back-Stabbing =Passive-Aggressive
    • Hogan’s dark side term = Leisurely >>> Covert aggression and despise; Constant scheming and manipulation under a pretence of loyalty
  • The High Maintenance = Dependent
    • Hogan’s dark side term = Dutiful >>> Excessive need to please. Difficulty making simple decisions without advice or excessive reassurance. Insecurity coupled with inability expressing disagreement out of fear of loss of support.

#1 the Exploder

The ‘Exploder’ is charming, charismatic, and enigmatic from the outset. They exude confidence, resolve, decisiveness, determination, and self-belief. Their dynamism, focus, and natural sense of authority draw in people to join the bandwagon of success. At the beginning the relationship is thrilling, exciting, exhilarating. You believe that together you can achieve anything you set your mind to. You cannot stop singing the praises of this person. Hence it comes as a shock when this all change very abruptly. One day this person hit a problem, and without any warning they lose their temper. In a flash a new side emerges that is emotionally volatile, harsh, hurtful, loud, accusatory and totally irrational. After the blow-up, the ‘Exploder’ brings back the conviction, charisma and charm, but you quickly learn that this is not long-lived. It only last until the next triggering event.

Impact on You: You turn into a nervous wreck – Tiptoeing around the ‘Exploder’ in fear of detonating them, and searching ways of deactivating the next explosion.  You don’t concentrate on your job anymore. Instead, you become preoccupied with trying with limited success to manage the Exploder’s unpredictable behaviour.

#2 the Perfectionist

The ‘Perfectionist’ makes you the ‘flavour of the month’ for a short period – putting you on a pedestal, only to kick it from under your feet later on. To start with, the ‘Perfectionist’ showers you with compliments, crowns you with more talent than anybody else, and uses you as an example to others as someone to emulate. For a while, you can do no wrong. But, the Perfectionist’s expectations are that you will act as the saviour (e.g., increase sales figures, reorganise a department, deliver all-singing-all-dancing product, etc.). However, as time passes and you appear more of a capable human being than a superhero, the Perfectionist searches and finds faults and evidence that you are not perfect.

Impact on You: Suddenly from the ‘chosen one’ you turn into the scapegoat. Instead of being a star, you are a sorry disappointment. You become confused and upset by the fall from grace, desperately try to replicate or mimic the behaviour that led to the superstar status. Yet, the pedantic and detailed bookkeeping of any little fault you make diminishes your self confidence, and reveal you most hidden insecurities.

#3 the Back-Stabber

The Back-Stabber enters the relationship as your greatest fun and admirer and shows great hunger to learn from you, to imitate your behaviour, to become a carbon copy of you. Like ‘Mini-Me’ in the Austin Powers movies, the Back-Stabber becomes in the first instance a ‘mini-you’. You feel admired and worshiped. This does wonders to your inflated ego, and fits well with some of your hidden narcissistic tendencies. As time progresses, you come across faint evidence that the Back-Stabber is behind activities or interactions that compromise or hurt your professional standing. Things start getting wrong for you (e.g., a large account is taken from you, people start questioning some of your practices and methods, you start getting complaints). The more you try to identify a reason for it, the more you notice that your little admirer is the common denominator in all these instances.

Impact on you: You get an irritating feeling that the Back-Stabber tries to undermine you in order to take over your position – yet, the Back-Stabber covers their path with great skill and your suspicions are unsubstantiated. From the outset, the Back-Stabber maintains the same pretence of loyalty, but their worship style is a bit more tamed. You do not know what or who to believe. You feel defensive and undermined. You want to believe that you can trust the Back-Stabber as your ego craves the God-like admiration, but you cannot stop the niggling feeling that you have been constantly stabbed in the back. Your attempts to confront the Back-Stabber are futile, as the Back-Stabber reacts with hurt and deny. Each attempt chips away from the amount of admiration you receive, and you are hooked – not sure if you becoming paranoid, going for a period of bad luck, or there is something in your suspicions. Rather than concentrating on your work, you spend too much of your time seeking evidence to support your conspiracy theories.

#4 the High Maintenance

Earlier in the relationship the High-Maintenance places their trust in you, displaying honesty, vulnerability, and extreme self-disclosure. You feel worthwhile, valuable, and useful. It plays to your paternal instinct and sense of justice. The High Maintenance constantly compliments you for your wisdom, compassion, and ability to sympathise – typically using phrases like “I don’t know what I would have done without you”, or “you are such a good and dear friend”.  You want to get out of your way to show your kindness to the High Maintenance, helping them to cope with their issues or stand back on their feet. While in the beginning, you might like this sense of dependency on you; after a while you realise two things – first, that you spend enormous amount of time and energy dealing with the High Maintenance and their problems, and second, that all your suggestions and advice are never taken on board.

Impact on you: As the needs of the High Maintenance for time intensify, the boundaries between your work and personal life begin to blur. Out of pity, or due to your desire to free your time at work, you may start dealing with the High Maintenance problems at your non-work time. You might invite the High Maintenance to discuss their problems over the weekend, you may find yourself obliged to invite the High Maintenance to join you for family events, holidays, and the like, justifying it to yourself by saying that they don’t have anyone else to turn to. When you realise that this is too demanding and try to ease the relationship a bit, the helpless High Maintenance starts excusing you of “being just like anyone else – selfish, uncaring, heartless”. Being afraid to become the bad guy, you feel obliged to keep the relationship going – yet, you feel exhausted, drained. The High Maintenance has sapped the energy out of you. You are tired of the constant doom and gloom, the constant moaning, and the inability of the High Maintenance to help themselves.

Unhooking

It is very hard to unhook from a fatal attraction relationships. You will probably have to go through all seven stages of the relationship before being able to move on. The unhooking goes through four phases:

First is the detection and admittance. This stage require you to admit to yourself that you are hooked (some push might come from those around you who can see the emotional state you are in). The admittance stage also includes an element of mourning and grief. Deep inside you are still attracted to the other person and want to experience again the feeling you had at the beginning of the relationship. Unhooking requires you to emotionally kill this relationship.

The second phase is that of detachment. Once you intellectually accepted that this relationship is dead and nothing will revive it, you need to separate yourself emotionally from the relationship. To do that you need to teach yourself to look at the other person from an objective perspective. This will require you to fully accept that:

  • The other person is not going to change – any signs of change are only a manipulative attempt to re-hook you
  • The relationship will never turn to its exciting and promising beginning – you have to let go of the assumption that this person or this relationship has potential. It never had and it never will have. What you saw as potential was sophisticated hooking
  • You will never receive the acknowledgement or the rewards you once hoped to get from this relationships – this means that all your efforts were wasted (you simply have to cut you loses and move on)

The third phase is depersonalisation. This phase is about understanding that it is not about you. Forget about the phrase “it takes two to Tango”. This is one of the only instances where it is totally not your fault – there is something fundamentally wrong with the other person. The more objectively you can view the other person, the less helpless you become, and the less power the other person has over you.

The final phase is of disassociation. In this phase you treat the person as if you never had a meaningful relationship with them at all. You keep the relationship on a professional level, and prevent any attempts to personalise any interaction. You maintain courtesy, but keep a professional distance. You do not give anything of yourself as a person, only your expected professional skills, and even those only within the boundaries of what can be expected from an employee – so, you provide your professional opinion if requested to do so by the other person, but do not take calls (even if work related) outside working hours. You talk about the business if required, but avoid any personal or non-business questions or comments from the other person. You bring the relationship into a level of pure business transaction.

The Way Out

     The Exploder

  • Accept that this person has unresolved rage
  • Appreciates that their volatility will occur no matter what you do
  • Learn to watch the Exploder blow up without taking it personally or being affected

     The Perfectionist

  • Accept that nothing that you will do will reinstate your former ‘Superhero’ status.
  • Appreciate that the ‘Perfectionist’ shaky self-esteem and fear of failure are what drive the devaluing remarks about you.
  • Stop trying to regain your statuesque position, neither with the ‘Perfectionist’ nor with anyone else. Focus on getting approval, agreement, and support from other sources

     The Back-Stabber

  • Accept that this person approach to further their career is by putting others down
  • Appreciate that this person believe that they cannot succeed on merit alone, and they need to make others look bad
  • Cut-off the relationship completely. Keep records of everything.

     The High Maintenance

  • Accept that this person does not want help – only attention
  • Appreciate that this person’s problems (either real or fictitious)will not go away no matter what you do
  • Stop trying to solve the problems. Listen without giving advice. Watch your time. Start putting boundaries back in place.

 

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Working with You Is Killing Me: Part #2

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Mar.31, 2010, under Working with You Is Killing Me

Working with You Is Killing Me: Part #2

Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

The Empty Persona

This blog builds on an excellent, but not well known article – Managing Away Bad Habits – by James Waldroop and Timothy Butler that was published in 2000 in Harvard Business Review.

“I was here on Saturday afternoon. Where were you?” This kind of “subtle” pressure to work 24/7 is typical of the ‘Hero’ – one of the four characters featuring in this chapter of ‘Working with You Is Killing Me’. This chapter focuses on those colleagues who drive you crazy; yet you find it very difficult to challenge or to tackle them, simply because they are star performers. But they are star performers with a dark-side – they have a seemingly fatal personality flow or a psychological limitation that colours their achievements, holds them back, and makes the life of others a misery.

We have all worked with people who are star performers but have one serious personality shortcoming that makes life difficult for everyone, limits their effectiveness, and often proves to be their professional undoing. Robert Hogan applied a mental disorders’ taxonomy into organisational life. He identified eleven characteristics that limit star performers and causing despair to those around them. He calls these the “dark side” of personality.

Waldroop and Butler condensed these characteristics into six profiles of destructive behaviour patterns they labelled ‘bad habits’. They use the term as a shorthand way of referring to deep-rooted psychological flaws. ‘Bad habits’ or ‘dark-side’ are not compulsions like nail biting, swearing, or smoking. Nor they apply to people who at one time or another bully colleagues, been too negative, or over argumentative. Instead, the terms refer to high performers whose psychological makeup translates into consistently problematic behaviour. Their ‘dark-side’ is a central component of their personality and informs the way they behave from day to day. I call it the ‘Empty Persona Syndrome’ as there is something shallow or missing in their character, that makes them all front, but without much substance. This chapter looks at four empty personas: (a) the Hero, (b) the Bulldozer, (c) the Rebel, and (d) the Pessimist.

Type #1: The Hero

The Heroes are the superhuman of the workplace. They take pride in solving any problem that crosses their way. They are naturally resourceful, capable, and competent in any work situation. 

The Heroes are driven by ‘Need for Achievement’. They thrive on ‘mission impossible’ challenges and spend their life in a rat race, moving from one target to another. The inner action voice that drives them is ‘Hurry Up’ – work quickly and deliver high output in a short time.

The Heroes always push themselves – and, by extension subordinates – working too hard, doing too much, and doing it for too long. Their strengths are achievement orientation, high energy level, ‘can-do’ attitude, efficiency, and fire-fighting. Their weaknesses are empathy to others, ability to reflect, attention to detailed work, reliability, and precision.

Typical behaviours of the Hero include: — First one to arrive at work and the last one to leave — Give up, cancel, or postpone vacation or holiday plans because of work commitment — Let down family members by not spending time with them, being always busy, or breaking promises — Volunteer to solve problems outside their job description — Fire emails to colleagues and clients at the early hours of the night — Have their BlackBerry or iPhone as an integral part of their anatomy.

The main root cause underlying the Heroes’ bad habits is Ego Centricity – An inability to understand the world from the perspective of other people. They have a difficulty getting outside their own frame of reference and seeing the world through another person’s eyes. The void in their persona comes from lack of empathy. Heroes may choose to work seven days a week. That’s their prerogative. But their expectations that others will have to follow suit lacks an appreciation of the other person’s values, drives, and personal circumstances. This unnecessary coercion to comply burns out employees and destroys their morale.

The Hero is often the last person a manager wants to change. After all, why would you want to tamper with the behaviour of someone who gets more done in a day than anyone else does in a week? Yet, in the long-run, the Hero’s constant push and drive adds real costs to the bottom line – even if those costs are obscured by short-term results. The Hero’s trail is covered with the footprints of valuable employees who are burned-out, disillusioned, frustrated and demoralised – or good employees who simply could not take it anymore and simply left the company after trying to keep up with the Hero’s superhuman efforts.

 Type #2: The Bulldozer

The second empty persona is the Bulldozer – Driven by need for power, they run roughshod over others in a quest for power. Bulldozers are people who decided early in life that the world is a hostile place where you should do unto others before they do unto you – plus interest, just to ensure that they get the message.

The Bulldozers are driven by ‘Need for Power’. The inner action voice that drives them is ‘Be Strong’. They cope with everything thrown their way. Their strengths are decisiveness, getting things done, firmness, and crisis management. Their weaknesses are lack of sensitivity, openness, and an ability to express passion and emotion.

Typically, the Bulldozers: — Do not take prisoners — Show willingness to make tough decisions and stand behind them — Have an inflated self-importance — Display control-freak tendencies – need to be on top of everything — Detest and do not tolerate weakness, indecisiveness, and dependency — Are independent-minded.

The underlying psychological process that causes the Bulldozer’s bad habits is a failure to recognise when and how to use power. Most people feel a deep ambivalence about the use of power. These feelings stem from unconscious fears of our capacity for destructiveness. The Bulldozers are quite different. They are very clear and decisive about the use of power. They believe in ‘use it or lose it’. They are all too happy to obtain power and then exercise it bluntly as if they were waving a club rather than skilfully and delicately as if they were using a surgeon’s scalpel. The Bulldozers’ lack of trust and fear of being cheated, taken advantage of, ignored, criticised, or treated unfairly causes them to fear that if they will not take control, others will control them.

While the Bulldozers deliver results, they do it with a great expense. Their pathway is littered with terrified and bullied employees. They intimidate and alienate everyone in their path. They don’t trust others, and others don’t trust them.

Type #3: The Rebel

The Rebel, the third empty persona, automatically fights against authority and convention. Workplace rebels tend to be quite conventional in their knee-jerk reactions against the status quo. Even though they view themselves as radical and revolutionaries, most of their protests against “the system” don’t go beyond simple complaining and moaning – they rarely take action to change the things that bother them.

The Rebels are driven by ‘Need for Aggression’. Their rebellion is a form of passive aggressive act, where the aggression is hidden behind an over-righteous concern for the organisation.

Typically, Rebels: — Argue for the sake of arguing — Enjoy shocking colleagues with provocative statements — Fancy themselves as independent thinkers — Take a contrary point of view in a group situation — Seem energised by getting into a heated argument — Often clash with people in position of authority — Always ask the inappropriate questions in meetings — Constantly make jokes about the company’s management — Publicly question the motives behind any major change.

The psychological process that underlines the Rebel’s bad habit is a failure to come to terms with authority. As in the case of using power, most people are ambivalent about authority – moving between the need to belong (being part of a larger entity) to the need to be unique. The third debilitating psychological process is being stuck in one of the extremes. At one end are those who defy authority in every possible instance and in every possible way. At the other end are those who are overly deferential: ‘If top management says it’s true, it must be’. The rebels are stuck in the first extreme.

The Rebels exhaust, tire, and wear-out their colleagues with their constant challenge, arguing, criticising, and moaning. There is something over-righteous about them that is unappealing and causes others avoid them. Their insistent criticism of the system, management, and anything else, drains the energy from others. When the Rebels are challenged, they become very defensive, try to build a coalition against the ‘enemy’, and by doing so, they create bad atmosphere in the workplace and a ‘them and us’ culture.

Type #4: The Pessimist

The Pessimist focuses on the downside of every change; always worries about what could go wrong rather than considering how things could improve. “We’ve always done it this way.” This is the way of the Pessimist, the fourth empty persona, to crush their colleagues’ initiatives and keep the status quo. The Pessimists have nothing but the best intentions in mind. Their goal is to preserve the organisation from the harm that could come to it because of ill-advised change. The problem is that Pessimists think that nearly every change is ill advised. While at times the Pessimists’ worries are justified – more frequently, though, they simply stifle creativity and block fruitful opportunities.

Unlike the other types that are motivated by a specific need, the Pessimists are driven by fear of failure. They cannot tolerate the shame of being wrong or inadequate.

Typically, Pessimists tend to: — Master the ‘Yes-But’ argument — Display extremely cautious behaviour — Spend more times analysing than any other type before committing to action — Be highly indecisive — Dislike making mistakes and focus on minimising them — Be reluctant to speak up when disagreeing – Be extremely slow to make decisions.

The root cause underlying the Pessimists’ bad habits is a negative self-image. The low esteem is a painful experience and results in attempts to prevent any likelihood for it to occur in the future. Consequently, they direct all their energy to avoidance of any situation that can result in failure.

The risk-averse nature of the Pessimist equates to paralysis by analysis – a debilitating indecisiveness that causes others enormous frustration. The avoidance of shame can spread insidiously throughout an organisation’s culture, becoming an unconscious modus operandi that has disastrous results for the company’s capacity to innovate and take risks. Creative, energetic, and change-driven employees find this type of environment suffocating, and they tend to vote with their feet – seeking a more dynamic and leading edge employer.

Managing the Empty Personas

Changing the empty personas behaviour is a delicate matter. After all, you want them to continue to do all the good things they’ve been doing. At the same time, you have to let them know the implications of their behaviour in terms of the impact it has on the business’s bottom line. That would come as a shock, as they see themselves as great contributors.

The Hero

The Heroes are driven by activity – they like being busy and tend to fire fight. As such, they produce tremendous short-term results, but their long-term ones are neglected. The key to change the Heroes’ behaviour is by focusing them on thinking more about winning the war and less about the individual battles. The Heroes are extremely competitive – therefore, giving them a challenge will focus their mind. The only difference is that the challenge will be articulated as a long-term strategic proposition, rather than an immediate issue that need to be resolved. A good General knows when to pull back to fight another day. Accordingly, you should reward the hero for actions that demonstrate a long-term focus and ignore or at least underplay any short-term achievements. Furthermore, express displeasure with any activities that are oriented towards short-term gains (e.g., fire-fighting, working silly hours, putting heroic efforts to complete proposals in time, etc.). Consider the following as an example of typical pep talk or a coaching conversation with a Hero –

“You have proved yourself as an exceptional implementer – but to progress and gain the appreciation you deserve, you need to show the ability to operate at a higher level. Everyone is impressed and convinced by your dedication and ability to solve problems and handle crises, but where you haven’t proved yourself, is with your ability to create and execute a well-thought through long-term strategic plan. Unless you will do that, you will be pigeon-holed as a fire-fighter or a crises manager. That might be a rewarding experience to start with, but for someone with your capabilities, it will not be enough. After a while you will get frustrated, seeing other overtaking you, as you haven’t learn to adjust your ways…

Furthermore, the intensity in which you operate is costly both to yourself and others. I keep hearing continuous complaints about working long hours and weekends, and expecting others to do the same…

You are a high-achiever; here is a challenge for you. Try to achieve the same results working 8 hours a-day, five days a-week, instead of 70 hours a-week. I bet that you will find that it is possible. It is only a matter of focusing the mind. If you allow yourself 70 hours a week, you will fill the 70 hours with activities. However, if you know that you only have 40 working hours per week, you will become far more focus, effective and efficient. If you achieve that, your home life will improve, your productivity will increase, your thinking will be sharper and clearer, and your ability to see beyond the end of your nose will increase significantly – as for the first time you will have time to reflect…”

The Bulldozer

Bulldozers are often reluctant to change a style that in their eyes is highly effective. So to change a bulldozer, you have to demonstrate that on balance, the liabilities resulting from overall approach used by the Bulldozer outweigh the returns.  Start the coaching conversation by asking the Bulldozer if s/he has any idea how many enemies s/he has created within the company. Follow this with a powerful line: ‘If I put it to a vote, there’s no question – you’d be fired.’

A bulldozer will typically protest – ‘I haven’t reached and achieved what I have by being soft and nice.” The right response is: “Look, I don’t care if you think you’re the gentlest person on earth. It doesn’t even matter if I agree, because other people don’t. And it’s like being a stand-up comedian – if you think you’re funny but the audience doesn’t, you’re not.”

You need to be able to spell out the ins and outs of the cost of the Bulldozer’s behaviour to the organisation.

“We have eight people in the team. Each highly capable – yet, because of your approach, we don’t utilise them hundred percent. If in a brainstorm, eighty percent of the ideas come from you – it is no indication that you are ever so clever, and the others operate a much lower level than yourself. It is merely because the others are either too scared to talk, or not given a chance as you bulldoze them. What it means in financial terms is that I might utilise you for hundred percent, but only get ten to twenty percent out of the capability of the others. That’s not just a waste, this is economically unviable. It is a no brainer – it makes more sense to take you off the team and get the best out of seven people, that to have you, and have the others under-utilised…

In the last couple of years, we lost three good people. What I gather from the exit interviews is that many blamed the atmosphere you have created in the work place as the cause for their departure.  At the level in which they were operating the direct cost for replacing them (recruitment campaign, head hunter costs, etc.) is about thirty percent of their annual salary. The indirect cost associated with lost opportunities, time it takes the new recruit to reach an optimal performance level, disruption… is five time higher.  So, your behaviour is costing me a fortune… I am not denying that you are giving us fantastic returns, but the cost of getting these returns is far too high… What would you do if you were in my position? …”

The Rebel

Rebels enjoy most a game of tug of war. So the first tactic managing them is to turn things on their head. Instead of being the one who challenges, the Rebel is the one who is being challenged. A typical coaching conversation with a Rebel could start with a blunt and direct question –

“I have noticed that you tend to be very critical and challenging of the way we do things here. Are you happy here? Are you thinking of quitting? … You always seem to be butting up against the limits, venting your frustration, and putting the organisation down… bad mouthing management…

You say that this is just the way you are talking, or that you were just kidding around. I don’t buy that. And in any event, the things you say hurt people and it is exasperating listening to the constant barrage of criticism.

But more to the point – you seem to think that a lot of things around here should be changed. Well here is a challenge for you – An opportunity to prove that there is substance behind your words. It is very easy to criticise, it is a different matter to offer a clever solution. If you’re going to battle the counter-productive aspects of the ‘regime’, I want to see you coming out with a well thought through specific initiative or a plan of action, rather than taking the easy option of standing on the side lines and criticising. You can then present it to the Board, and be prepared to be challenged about it. So think it through very well and be ready to defend it. You will need to convince your audience that the benefits of adopting your initiative outweigh the costs implementing it.

 You have a choice. You can work to change things here or you can follow you old pattern and just be an irritant. If you choose the later, your career will stall and your influence on the organisation will never amount to much. I hope you make the other choice, because you’re right – this place isn’t perfect, and we need people like you to help improve it.”

The Pessimist

Like the Rebel’s constant criticism, the Pessimist constant resistance to change, can be irksome, annoying, and exasperating. After a while, people stop taking notice, and treat the Rebel or the Pessimist as irritating noise in the background. This is the line of argument to take in the coaching conversation with the Pessimist. Pointing out that as in the children’s story of the boy who cried wolf, the impact of the constant alarms is diminishing.

“It is okay to worry, but it’s important that your fears do more than guard the status quo. They should have a constructive edge.

I have been listening to your arguments closely over the last couple of months, and the pattern that emerged for me is that your risk evaluation is biased. You ignore both the potential upside of change, as well as failing to consider the downside of doing nothing.

In the future, when a change initiative is proposed, you should draw a two-by-two matrix that looks at the pros and cons of making the change as well as the pros and cons of doing nothing. By making this systematic consideration of initiatives into a routine, you will be forced into more objective risk analysis… Furthermore, I am willing to protect you from every kind of risk except one. If you try something new and fail, I’ll take the blame. If you try something new and succeed, you’ll get the credit. But if I find that you’re refusing to take risks or getting in the way of others who have good ideas, you’ll be held accountable.”

References

Waldroop, J. & Butler, T. (2000). Managing away bad habits. Harvard Business Review, 78, no. 5 (September – October).

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Working with You Is Killing Me: Part #1

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Mar.21, 2010, under Working with You Is Killing Me

Working with You Is Killing Me #1

 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 

Being Hooked – The 1st Emotional Trap

The workplace is a volatile environment inhabited by emotional creatures who often rub each other the wrong way. Scratch the rational surface of any company, and you will find a breeding ground of negative emotions – anxiousness about performance, anger with colleagues, resentment with management, and stress and burnout from pressuring targets.

The first chapter in this series relates to being emotionally hooked.

Meet, Claudia {a fictitious name – but a real person} – a highly successful and powerful senior executive, but also a nightmare to work with.  I was engaged by the non-exec Board of a professional services firm to coach Claudia. The request came after continuous resentment and complaints from her colleagues coupled with an unprecedented level of resignations from members of her team. Confidential exit interviews revealed that the main reason people gave for leaving the secure job with the reputable firm was that “working with her, is killing me”.

At her best, Claudia tends to be very enthusiastic about, and work hard on, new products. She brings a sense of energy, dynamism, and urgency to new projects. At her worst, she is extremely hard to please and she is high maintenance – requiring a lot of handholding and reassurance. Claudia’s character is exemplified by inappropriate anger coupled with unstable and intense relationships that alternate between passion and idealisation to deflation and devaluation. Psychometric analysis of her profile revealed that Claudia expects to be disappointed in relationships. She anticipates being cheated, ignored, criticised, or treated unfairly. Consequently, she is constantly on guard for signs that others have treated, or will treat, her badly. In business, this translates to being sharp, on top of things and hard to fool. However, when she thinks that she has been mistreated, she erupts in emotional display that may involve losing her temper, yelling from one end of the office to the other, or sulking for days. Because she is so alert for signs of mistreatment, she finds them everywhere, even when others cannot see them. The distinctive emotional tantrums of Claudia make her unpredictable – It is hard to know when she is going to erupt, and what this eruption would look like. Furthermore, because she is so edgy and self-centred she is unrewarding to deal with. As a result of her unpredictability and edginess, she has trouble building and maintaining a team.

Claudia does not handle stress, pressure, failure, disappointment, or criticism very well, and she tends to ‘melt down’ rather easily. It does not take much for her to turn from being passionate and enthusiastic to becoming disheartened. In her history of relationships, she has been so easily disappointed, and when disappointed, her first instinct was to withdraw or leave. A key to understanding Claudia is her extreme degree of self-centricity. All information and experience is filtered through the lense of what does it mean for her personally, and she takes every comment, gesture, and expression of others personally. She personalises everything, but she does it privately, so all that others see and experience are the emotional outbursts, the sulkiness, and the tendency to withdraw.

Now consider others’ experience working with Claudia. Those working with her may feel that they have to be careful in all their interactions with her with the fear of offending her. Those reporting to her often feel that live in a constant state of terror, finding that they spend more time managing their relationship with her, than concentrating on their job. It is common for them to start their day wondering in what mood Claudia is, as her mood may affect the rest of their day. Their decisions when to request or negotiate a budget for their projects or initiatives, is not driven by the business environment, but by her daily mood. In a series of 360-degree interviews, those working for her suggested that the way of remaining sane, is to provide her with plenty of reassurance, keep her informed to minimise surprises, and give her a lot of previews so she knows what is coming. The general principle of handling her is the equivalent of trying to sooth a fretful child.

Being Hooked

The first emotional trap is that of being hooked – having a consistent irritable reaction to someone or something at work – i.e., whenever we come across this person or this thing at work, we feel irritated, annoyed, anxious, frustrated…

Being hooked means feeling trapped in relationships, positions, roles, and situations that drain our energy, invade our thoughts, keep us awake at night and make us feel stuck in no-win positions.

Here are some additional examples: Having someone ‘stealing’ your ideas and taking credit for them # having constant complaints from a particular customer who is never satisfied # being bombarded with unstoppable work demands # being forced to use an inefficient centralised template or system

The symptoms of being hooked are any of the followings:

  • Incompetence – Is there someone at work whose incompetence drives you mental?
  • Restrictive Interdependency – Is there someone at work on whom you depend to do your work, and whose way of operating prevents you from progressing your work?
  • Maladaptive Behaviour – Is there someone at work whose irrational behaviour wears on your nerves?
  • Withdrawal Reactions – To cope with stress at work, do you engage in excessive eating, alcohol drinking, watching TV, or using mind altering substances?

Businesses expect professional and non-emotional behaviour from its employees. Yet, many circumstances at work give rise to strong emotions. Individuals that are in such situation, feel trapped, stuck in a losing game. They cannot free themselves from the bad situation, and their emotions remain unexpressed and suppressed. They feel that the only two options open for them are either ‘suck it up’ or ‘quit’.

This experience of feeling caught in an emotionally distressing work situation is labelled being hooked. It is manifested in consistently having a strong negative internal reaction to someone (or something) at work. The degree of being hooked can vary from a mild irritation (such as a reaction to a colleague tone of voice) to a severe emotional breakdown (such as the inability to cope with line manager’s irrational behaviour).

The normal and common reaction when being hooked is activated (i.e., when someone else’s behaviour irritates us) is to blame our irritation and emotional responses on that person’s behaviour – but that doesn’t solve anything. We are still kept hooked.  The way out is to re-frame and manage our internal emotional responses first – i.e., controlling our automatic reaction that someone else’s behaviour triggered inside us. The principle here is simple – If we can control our emotional reaction, we can liberate ourselves from being hooked.

The process of changing our emotional response to irritating circumstances is termed unhooking. As opposed to feeling insulted by the constant need to chase a customer who will not return your calls, you can unhook by not taking it as a personal rejection and accepting it as part of doing business, where the customer is ‘king’. Instead of getting irritated by the incompetence of your colleague, you can unhook by changing your expectations and taking corrective actions to prevent the negative impact of that person’s ineptitude. Rather than despising the malicious office gossip, you can unhook by setting clear boundaries and showing no interest.

Easier said than done – not necessarily.

There are four simple steps to unhooking that help you release the negative emotions and stay calm, while taking specific actions to change your experience.

  • Physical action:  This step aims to release the negative energy caused by being hooked. As emotional discomfort produces shallow breath, you start by focusing on your breathing, and consciously breathing deeply and gently. If possible, engage in some physical activity such as walking round the block. This helps releasing the physical sensation associated with the negative emotion of being hooked.
  • Mental Reframing: Here you try to look at your situation from a different perspective, view your circumstances objectively, and evaluate the practical options open to you. At this step your rational part of the brain takes over from the emotional one. Ask yourself:
    • What is happening here? – e.g., my invoice is overdue again (for the last five consecutive times), the client’s finance manager  did not pay the invoice I have raised, she ignored all my last two ‘gentle reminders’ emails, and she did not return my call
    • What are the facts? – e.g., I need the invoice cleared within seven days to pay my suppliers
    • What part did the other person play in it? – e.g., She is disorganised, lacks respects for others, and does not care about anyone else but herself
    • How did I contribute to what has happened? – e.g., I take her incompetence and lack of response personally, I try to pacify her by using a very gentle approach, it stops me from wanting to do more work for this client
    • What are my realistic options? – e.g., I can stop personalising her bad attitude; she does not reject me, she is just dismissive of all suppliers; I can acknowledge her feeling of being very busy and under pressure from many suppliers and agree with her to send her a reminder a week before the invoice is due; I can ask to meet with the client and agree a process of timely payment of invoices; I can agree with the client a penalty close for late payment
  • Verbal Expression: This is a proactive action aiming to restructure the situation that causes you grief. The verbal expression requires you to focus on the overall goal as opposed to remaining stuck in the petty details. The aim is to express information in a manner that resolves problems rather than perpetuating them. As such, the verbal expression should contain no judgement, no blame, no accusations, no pointing finger, and no anger or any other negative emotion. It means taking responsibility for your own part of the situation. The verbal expression is not about a compromise, or about being nice. It is about clear, direct, and effective communication that allows the listener to hear you and consider your suggestions. Thus, instead of fuelling your own frustration regarding the late payment of invoices, you can approach the client and / or the finance manager, and ask: “How can I help you get the invoices paid on time? – … I can alert you a week before they are due … I can arrange a direct debit from your account…”
  • Toolbox Utilisation: This step is the equivalent of introducing a third-party to support your argument. Here we utilise simple business tools that either measures certain behaviours, create a behavioural benchmark, or disseminate information. The toolbox includes amongst others: job description # goal setting document # performance reviews # policies and procedures # disciplinary actions forms # memo, emails, and letters # meetings’ agenda # documentation.
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Working with You Is Killing Me

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Mar.21, 2010, under Series, Working with You Is Killing Me

Working with You Is Killing Me

 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

The series ‘Working with You Is Killing Me’ is a set of seven interlinked articles looking at managing the dark side of colleagues at work, and freeing oneself from the work-based emotional traps. The series draws on the work of, and gives credit to, Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster, whose exceptional book ‘Working with You Is Killing Me’ was the inspiration for this series.

The series includes seven blogs:

  • Part #1 – Being Hooked – Emotional Trap: The first chapter of the 7-part series. This chapter explores the emotional trap of ‘Being Hooked’ – having a consistent irritable reaction to someone or something at work – i.e., whenever we come across this person or this thing at work, we feel irritated, annoyed, anxious, frustrated… Being hooked means feeling trapped in relationships, positions, roles, and situations that drain our energy, invade our thoughts, keep us awake at night and make us feel stuck in no-win positions.
  • Part #2 – The Empty Persona: “I was here on Saturday afternoon. Where were you?” This kind of “subtle” pressure to work 24/7 is typical of the ‘Hero’ – one of the four characters featuring in this chapter of ‘Working with You Is Killing Me’. This chapter focuses on those colleagues who drive you crazy; yet you find it very difficult to challenge or to tackle them, simply because they are star performers. But they are star performers with a dark-side – they have a seemingly fatal personality flow or a psychological limitation that colours their achievements, holds them back, and makes the life of others a misery
  • Part #3 – Fatal Attraction: When you first met, you felt drawn to that person; you were excited at the prospect of working together – there was something about that person that fulfilled a strong inner need within you. However, over time, interactions with this person left you emotionally exhausted and professionally frustrated – by now, you are dreading the next interaction. You spend your days and sleepless nights running conversations in your head, trying to understand the other person, thinking of ways of bringing the relationships to what it was in the past – but with no avail. No matter what you do, you cannot steer the relationships back to its vibrant beginning.
  • Part #4 – Managing Upward
  • Part #5 – Managers’ Emotional Baggage and Insecurities
  • Patt #6 – Managing Down
  • Part #7 – Case Studies
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The Dark Side of Leadership

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Mar.16, 2010, under Articles

We are looking for People with the Potential to Fail…

 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 

The Dark Side of Leadership — On the route to become a major liability… 

Everyone is looking for people with the potential to be successful – but there are some roles, where the potential of getting it wrong, can outweigh the benefits of having a high potential, high performer in place. The reality is that in many cases, those who turn out to be a major liability, give an impressive impression of high potential and high capability. This paper looks at the HR² phonomenon – the High-Risk — High-Return individuals.

Remember Gerald Ratner, the entrepreneur who created the multi-million jewellery business, and in one statement (“People say. ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap”) wiped out an estimated £500m from the value of the company. How about Nick Lesson? – The golden boy of Bearing Bank, whose actions resulted in the sale of the 200-year establishment for £1.

It is not just the colourful characters that hit the news that can become a liability. In August 2007, British Airways was fined £270 million after it admitted that one of its senior managers tried to colluding with Virgin Atlantic over fuel surcharges and price-fixing on cargo flights.

So think about those high hitters who leave carnage behind them. It is a very difficult to challenge or argue against them; let alone stop them. As from performance perspective, they close major deals, lead complex projects to successful completion, create innovative products, attract clients, and deliver spectacular operational and financial results. Organisations try to learn to live with their shortfalls and justify it by saying that the business depends on them for its success. This is probably true, but only up to a certain point. In the long-term they can cause unacceptable collateral damage, and might bring the organisation to ‘its knees’. In safety-critical industries such as oil exploration, aviation, and medical care, there is plenty of evidence that such disruptive behaviour can cause life-threatening errors.

There are several reasons as to why do talented people derail in spite of their brilliance, and why they do not address their weaknesses before they cause havoc. One of the most common reasons is their lack of insight. They dismiss potential weaknesses as unimportant, redefine them as part of their ‘charm’, ‘style’ or even ‘secret of success’, and blame others for “overreacting”. What’s more, It is customary in many organisations to approve such actions by subscribing to cultural statements such as “I didn’t get where I am today by taking the soft approach or by being nice to people”; “we could do with a bit of backbone” or “It’s time we told it to people as it is – they need to know what is what”.

There is an organisational trap here – I call it HR² – it is an acronym for ‘High-Risk – High-Return’. The challenge for organisations with such high-risk high-return individuals is to retain their talents whilst minimising the damage they cause along the way.

The Center for Creative Leadership (McCall and Lombardo) researched executives who were viewed as technical gurus or tenacious problem solvers, but under demanding job pressures their strengths turned into liabilities that become costly and highly noticeable for the organisation. The study identified four sets of characteristics that can lead to such derailment – these were: (a) problems with interpersonal relationships (such as arrogance, aloofness, coldness and detachment); (b) problems with execution of business objectives (such as betraying trust, failure to follow through); (c) problems with inability to lead a team; and (d) problem with managing change or adapting to transition (such as limited strategic capacity; over-controlling). Likewise, Robert Hogan, one of the leading figures in the study of leadership derailment, used taxonomy of mental disorders that manifest themselves in a subtle way in organisational life and in the behaviour of derailed leaders. He categorised the characteristics that derail high flyers’ careers and cause negative consequences for their organisation into eleven derailing characteristics. He calls these the “dark side” of personality – the characteristics that are not normally apparent but which emerge when an individual is under great pressure (see the following table).

  Description On a Good Day Limitations
Excitable Inappropriate anger. Intense and unstable relationships, alternating between idealisation and devaluation. Clinical Term – Borderline Personality Passion; Empathy; Energy; Enthusiasm; Concern Volatility;  Emotional explosiveness; Emotional instability
Sceptical Distrustful and suspicious of others; Conspiracy theory oriented; Motives are interpreted as malevolent. Clinical  Term – Paranoia Shrewd; Insightful; Social and political insight; Critical analysis; Sharpness Cynicism; Negativity; Excessive suspicion; Blame; Draining energy from others
Cautious Social inhibition; Feeling of inadequacy; Hyper-sensitivity to criticism or rejection. Clinical Term – Avoidance Risk assessment; Voice of reason; Devil’s advocate Indecisiveness; Paralysis by analysis; Risk-averse;
Reserved Emotional coldness and detachment from social relationships; Indifference to praise and criticism. Clinical Term – Schizoid Emotional unflappability;  Focus; Concentration; Productivity Not gaining buy-in; Poor communication; Insensitive; Failing to get the best from others
Scheming Passive resistance to social and occupational performance; Irritation when asked to do something they do not want to do. Clinical  Term – Passive Aggressive Good social skills; Diplomatic; Political astuteness Passive aggression; Manipulation; Stubbornness; Killing initiatives
Bold Arrogance; Haughty behaviours or attitudes; Grandiose sense of self-importance and entitlement.  Clinical Term – Narcissism Charisma; Conviction; confidence; Courage; Energy; Untouchable mentality Arrogance; Belief in own press; Overbearing; Lack of remorse; Inability to learn from mistakes
Mischievous Disregard for the truth; Impulsivity and failure to plan ahead; Failure to conform to social norms.  Clinical Term – Antisocial Risk taker; Challenging; Charming; Mission impossible; Reckless; Deceitful; Morally bankrupted; Uncontrolled impulsivity; Steals the glory
Colourful Excessive emotionality and attention Seeking; Self-dramatisation; Theatrical and excessive emotional expression. Clinical Term – Hysteria Risk taker; Pushes boundaries; Challenging; Engaging; Impactful Impulsive and distractable; Prima-donna
Imaginative Odd belief or magical thinking; Eccentricity; Behaviour or speech that are odd or peculiar. Clinical Term – Schizotypal Creativity; Vision; Radical  innovation; Step change Unrealistic ideas; No consolidation; dismissal of best practice; No continuous improvement
Diligent Obsessive occupation with structure, orderliness, process, rules, control and procedures; Perfectionism. Clinical Term – Obsessive Compulsive High standards; Reliability; Good role model Control freak;  Micro-managing; Pure operational; not strategic
Dutiful High maintenance. Difficulty making simple decisions without advice or excessive reassurance; Difficulty expressing disagreement out of fear of loss of support; Excessive need to please. Clinical Term – Dependent Loyalty; Organisational commitment; Hard worker; Customer service; Polite Spineless; Good No.2 – Not a No. 1; Pushover; Inability to challenge authority

An Illustrative Case Study

ClearWater has recently supported a professional services firm going through a major operational and cultural change. Key to this change was M – An equity holding Managing Partner in the firm. M was in charge of a Strategic Business Unit (SBU) that included several diverse businesses. M’s biggest challenge was to create a cohesive SBU with clear identity and well-defined ‘routes to market’ strategy that builds on leverages among the diverse business units within the larger SBU. This was a difficult challenge as the different business units had a long history of independent operation without a broad umbrella. This challenge was vital to the Professional Services firm as the recession and tough economic market, made it difficult for many of the business units to break-even, let alone, make profit.

M’s rise to the Head of SBU position was a combination of five factors – An earlier success in winning a massive three-year contract with a highly respectable client; a tough, uncompromising, honesty and integrity; a down-to-earth, practical and pragmatic, no-nonsense approach; strong drive and ambition to succeed; and extreme dedication and commitment to the firm. Clearly, M’s role was critical to the future of the firm as the driving force behind the relatively new SBU, but the results were not coming in, performance targets were not met. Not used to failure, M doubled his effort in doing what he knows best and what proved a success in the past – Pushing and challenging the business units and individuals within them, closely monitoring and measuring their performance, setting tough targets and re-visiting them regularly, demanding total dedication and high standards, forcing central rules and procedures to standardise operations… But the results still did not materialise. The SBU was operating as a random amalgamation of independent and diverse business units, there were no significant cross-selling or collaborative projects, no leverages were realised among the different business units, and the financial results were behind agreed targets. Furthermore, the cost to colleagues was becoming a concern – the common joke/complain regarding M was “working with you is killing me”. Resignations of senior players were common occurrence, morale was low, and the two waves of compulsory redundancies initiated by M, made the SBU a depressing place to work. Many spent their time, buying time, before jumping ship.

The CEO sought our advice. Our assessment was that M’s profile was not suitable for a strategic integrative role. His skills were more as an entrepreneurial sole operator. The tough uncompromising style that made M a success in the first place, was likely to do more harm than good. More specifically M displayed two extreme ‘dark-side’ personality traits – ‘Diligence’ and ‘Reserved’.  These made M highly focused, tough and uncompromising, yet, under pressure they also brought the worst out of him. The strong operational focus with limited strategic perspective associated with high ‘Diligence’, meant an inability to create a cohesive and coherent vision for the SBU as a whole. When results were not emerging, M revert to the typical ‘Diligence’ approach of ‘try harder’ rather than ‘try something different’; ‘micro-manage’ rather than ‘seek innovation’, and ‘enforce compliance’ rather than ‘learn from local practices’. Furthermore, the ‘Reserved’ style meant strong focus on targets, but failure to gain buy-in to overall operational strategy. It resulted in forcing top-down decisions, while failing to properly communicate the rationale for them. It demanded compliance, while being insensitive to localised specific issues.

At a series of feedback meetings involving the Managing Partner and the CEO – it become clear that M’s strengths are not fully utilised in this role. The SBU was re-structured, the senior roles were re-defined. An additional Managing Partner was brought in to manage an element of it, and M’s role was re-defined around his strengths.

The HR² Approach

The HR² approach is used both to inform selection decision into high-risk positions, and development of managers that show signs of derailment. From a selection perspective, it stops the High-Risk High-Return slip through the net. It prevents the case of finding how disruptive they could be when it is far too late… From a development perspective, it offers a clear framework to manage and develop such individuals.

The approach places great importance on three things—an accurate pin-pointed diagnosis, a buy-in and involvement of all key stakeholders, and pragmatism.

HR² is a sophisticated 1-day intensive 1-to-1 psychological assessment, that has been scientifically developed and designed to target and ensure, that the people who are totally wrong, potential liability, or potentially damaging to your organisation, cannot … and do not … slip the radar. The 1-day diagnosis involves an in-depth semi structured interview, the completion of psychometric questionnaires, a business simulation exploring the ability to handle complexity, psychological exploration. Additional input that informs the diagnosis and prognosis includes: (a) the contextual factors that have influence over the individual and the situation; and (b) the challenges the organisation is facing now and in the future.

The HR² assessment explores four inter-dependent building blocks:

  • THINKING – Cognitive biases generated by Thinking Style and limitations in managing complexity
  • BEHAVIOUR – Maladaptive habitual behavioural acts
  • PERSONALITY – The interface between the bright side of personality and the emerging dark side
  • EMOTION – The distorted defence mechanisms used to handle emotional dispositions

When used for development, the 1-day diagnosis is followed by a series of 1-to-1 feedback session and a 3-way session involving the individual and their line manager. These sessions are used to draw a practical and pragmatic action plan and a personal development plan. In many instances this involves a mixture of structural changes to the organisation, the contextual setting, or the manager’s role, with a personal development programme for the individual. The pragmatic development programme offers a blend of ‘damage limitation’ interventions focusing the prevention of damage caused by derailing tendencies, with ‘strengths enhancement’ interventions where the individual gains insight to the ways they can best utilise their profile and their unique strengths.

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Quotes

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Mar.07, 2010, under Short Blogs


Quotes

Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D

There is rarely a management development programme where the facilitator doesn’t use a quote. A quote to inspire, to get a point across, to summarise the essence… one for almost every occasion. Here are sixty quotes that were collected mainly from a discussion at www.Linkedin.com

My favourite is “Scream if you want to go faster”

  1. “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly” — Richard Bach
  2. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” — Friedrich Nietzsche
  3. “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission” — Eleanor Roosevelt
  4. “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” — Goethe
  5. “For those who believe, no proof is necessary; for those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” — Stuart Chase
  6. “The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire.” — John N. Mitchell
  7. “The 3 sentences for getting success – Know more than others, Work more than others, Expect less than others”  
  8. “The greatest danger for us is not that we aim too high and fail to achieve our goal, but we aim too low and we reach.” — Michelangelo
  9. “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it” — William Arthur Ward
  10. “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re usually right”
  11. “You miss 100% of the shots you never take”– Wayne Gretzky
  12. “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot
  13. “Don’t confuse effort with results”
  14. “People laugh at me because I’m different. I laugh at them because they are all the same.”
  15. “Waves are my inspiration – not because they rise and fall but because each time they fall, they rise again.”
  16. “Strength lies in differences. Not in similarities” — Stephen Covey
  17. “I don’t think about risks much; when you gotta go, you gotta go…”
  18. “Do, or do not. There is no try” — Jedi Master Yoda
  19. “If you love what you do, you will never work another day in your life.”
  20. “Yes we can”
  21. “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Alfred D Souza
  22. Never argue with an IDIOT, first you have to stoop at his level and then he will beat you with his experience”….
  23. Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there — Mark Twain
  24. “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery. Today is a gift, that’s why we call it present.” — Kung Fu Panda
  25. “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” — Nino Qubein
  26. “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” — Groucho Marx
  27. “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must out run the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It does not matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle; When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
  28. “Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.” — Vince Lombardi
  29. “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right.” — Warren G. Bennis
  30. “Whenever you cross the Hurdles in your way, they become a Milestone in your Life”.
  31. “Its always good to know what people expect from you, then you can surprise them by giving more”
  32. “When is the last time you did something for the first time.”
  33. Seek first to understand, then to be understood — Steven Covey
  34. Do one thing that scares you every day — Eleanor Roosevelt
  35. “Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.” — Jim Horning
  36. “Luck is preparation meeting opportunity” – Oprah Winfrey
  37. “The stone age did not end due to a lack of stone”
  38. Because we don’t know what is really important to us, everything seems important. Because everything seems important we have to do everything. Other people, unfortunately, see us as doing everything so they expect us to do everything. Doing everything keeps us so busy we don’t have time to think about what is really important to us.
  39. “People in cardboard boxes should throw stones”
  40. “I have always admired the ability to bite off more than one can chew and then chew it” — William C. deMille
  41. “Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society. The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute” — Gil Stern
  42. “… no matter where you go, there you are.” — Buckaroo Banzai
  43. “Don’t base your life on intentions. Either do it or let it go!” — Carolyn Hutchison
  44. “Sometimes its best to look reality in the eye and deny it.”
  45. “Throwing away ideas too soon is like opening a package of flower seeds and then throwing them away because they’re not pretty.” — Arthur B. VanGundy
  46. “Everything happens for a reason”
  47. “Don’t let others rent free space in your head”
  48. “I should have drunk more champagne” — John Maynard Keynes
  49. No one will remember what you said or what you did – they will only remember how you made them feel.
  50. “Your mind is on vacation, but your mouth is working overtime.” — Mose Allison
  51. “Be nice to the people you meet on the way up. You will meet them again on the way down.”
  52. “Life is like a box of chocolate. After the initial excitement, all you left with is the nasty coffee flavoured ones.”
  53. “I spent 90% of my money on women, drink and fast cars. The rest I wasted.” — George Best
  54. “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” — Yogi Berra
  55. “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” — Benjamin Franklin
  56. “It only takes one.”
  57. “These are my principles – If you don’t like them, I have others” Groucho Marx
  58. “Expecting others to treat you fairly because you are good person is a little like expecting the lion not to attack you because you are a vegetarian”
  59. “Wherever you are… BE there!”
  60. “A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that works.” — John Gaule
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Business Lessons from Lady GaGa

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Mar.02, 2010, under Short Blogs

Business Lessons from Lady GaGa

 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 Some say the meteoric rise of Lady GaGa to fame will be short-lived and that she will disappear from the music scene, nearly as quickly as she emerged into it. This blog, puts the argument that there is a clear logic beyond the outlandish and eccentric new entry into the entertainment scene, and that are five simple, yet powerful lessons, for every business to learn from the new first lady of the music industry. 

The credit for this blog goes to Charlie O’Donnell who wrote the original article (16th Jan., 2010) in www.businessinsider.com and to my Twitter friend Roy Osing (www.bedifferentorbedead.com – @RoyOsing) who introduced it to me.

 

A couple of weeks ago I watched Lady GaGa emerging as the biggest winner of the 2010 Brits awards. The 23 year-old US star won Best International Female, International Album for The Fame, and International Breakthrough Act. It is easy to mock her outlandish outfits, her simplistic child-like lyrics, and her over-the-top attention craving. But hate her, or despise what she represents – It is difficult not to admire her meteoric rise and her tremendous achievements. A year ago she was an unknown – now…

You might ask what does Lady GaGa have to do with business practices (and if you are of a certain age you might have not even know who I am talking about). Nevertheless, there five intriguing lessons businesses can learn from the shooting star of the music industry.

Lesson 1: Be Remarkable – Stand Out from the Crowd

Look at the picture to the left. This outlandish outfit is typical of Lady GaGa. You cannot help but notice her. “What is it that she is wearing…? Does she wear anything underneath it? This business principle, it is about grabbing attention – about capturing the awareness of others and making them notice you. You want to your potential clients and customers to stop their daily routines and take note of your offering, service, product, or unique ideas. So – What is it about your offering that will make potential customers stop and notice?

Lesson 2: Stand on the Shoulders of Giants

To be great, you need to be able to recognise greatness and learn from it. Lady GaGa has clearly been influenced by the likes Madonna, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie. Rather than fight these influences and declares herself different, bigger, and better than them, she incorporates subtle references to these superstars into her performance. She does not portray herself as a replacement to those that came before her. Instead, she recognises that there is a reason why others are successful. The same lesson applies to businesses – Identify the leaders in your industry and see what is working for them and made more successful than you are. Adopt well executed strategies rather than dismissing them, and vault beyond them to claim your unique position. Do not mistake different for new and better. If you cannot recognise greatness, and build on it or off of it, then your chances of being great on your own are rather slim.

 

Lesson 3: Repeat the Message

Some might say the lyrics of her songs are irritating and mind numbing — “Pa-pa-pa-Poker Face”, “Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah;Roma, roma-ma: Ga-ga, ooh la la””, “Again and again, again, again, again, never stop”, ”I want your love, love, love, love; I want your love”…   Many of the Lady’s lyrics and sounds are repeated one right after another – simple, simplistic, yet highly memorable when listened to over and over again. As a business, you have to figure out what your key message is and repeat it again, and again, and again. Make it catchy and memorable – ‘It is all about people and behaviour’ or ‘from Tragic to Magic. Repeat it across your web-site, blog, Tweet it, make it the cornerstone of your marketing copy, PR, and business development activities. This helps creating clear and coherent brand awareness. Your audience looks at a massive amount of brand messages every day. To cut through, you have to be the same every single time someone experiences you. Trying to be everything to everyone will result in very small following. Sometimes, broken records aren’t so bad. Remember the classical impact creation practice – “first tell them what you are going to tell them; then, tell it them, and finally tell them what you have told them.”

Lesson 4: Be Relentless

On-hit wonders are not typical only of the music industry. Many businesses might have an initial success with a particular product, or service delivery; but resting on their laurels means that short life-shelf. The competition is catching up very quickly, and the market is constantly flooded with new products and innovations. Similarly, many start-ups display the one-hit wonder syndrome. They make a big noise upon launch, but quickly after the big fuss is over, they have no follow up and quickly lose momentum. Lady GaGa on the other hand, is a well oiled hit-making machine. Just when one of her songs starts losing steam, we are introduced to another tune that we just can’t get out of our heads. She keeps herself on our radar screen, and to do that, she releases a new song every three months. A business might be the new flavour of the month right now, but when the month is over… things are different. Constantly ask yourself what is going to be your next block buster… your next killer new feature… your next business development contract? If you don’t keep pace with the market dynamics, you soon become yesterday’s news.

Lesson 5: Create a brand with life of its own

At some point, a new company has to start acting like the real thing and stop behaving as if it is operating from the garden shed of one of its founders. Things take on a life of their own that is over and above the individual identities of the founders.  Lady GaGa created, promoted and publicly displays a facade detached from her real self. To her family and close friends, she is probably still Stefani, but to the rest of the world she is something else, bigger than life – she is Lady GaGa. The earlier the company founders behave like they have created something bigger than themselves, the sooner they will get there. This means getting non-exec Board members to regulate and control the business, taking strategy and process seriously, maintaining consistent corporate identities, delegating duty and responsibility, and adhering to procedure.

The learning’s from Lady Gaga are definitely worth repeating and are not limited to start-ups. Her success factors apply to all organisations looking to be successful in the fast pace and highly changing world we live in.

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Five Monkeys, a Banana, and Corporate Culture

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Feb.28, 2010, under Short Blogs

Five Monkeys, a Banana, and Corporate Culture

 
 
 
 

 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 

 

 

Harlow’s classical Animal Psychology experiment is used as an analogy to explain the creation and maintenance of corporate culture, rules, regulations, and processes, that keep on living in the organisation collective action, even after the original reason for introducing them is all forgotten or becomes irrelevant. It is the story of five monkeys, a banana, and the creation of powerful corporate culture

Some credit for this post goes to Ndidi Egwuatu, who was a delegate on a recent workshop and reminded us of  Harlow’s ‘Monkeys Experiment’

I have recently took part in a series of ‘mystery shopping’ visits to branches of an international organisation. The purpose of the visits was to appreciate the customer experience, identify consistent negative experiences, and look to turn these round. One of the most common observations was the rigid compliance with procedures and processes that created a tragic experience for the customer, and drove them away from the organisation. It is common to find in many established organisations such practices. At the most basic level examples include rejection of an application form of a potential customer, simply because the form was completed in blue ink rather than black, or it was completed in regular rather than block capitals. This phenomenon reminds us of one of the classical animal psychology experiments by Harry Harlow of the five monkeys and the hanging banana.

In Harlow’s experiment (which would not pass any ethics committee nowadays), five monkeys were put into a regular monkeys’ cage, with a banana hanging high on a rope from the roof of the cage (outside the reach of the monkeys). The researcher then put a step ladder enabling the monkeys to reach the banana. However, whenever one of the monkeys attempted to climb and reach for the banana, ALL monkeys were sprayed with freezing ice cold water. After few attempts, they all learned the association between reaching for the banana and the group collective punishment of being sprayed with freezing ice cold water. If they want to stay warm and dry, they better not reach for the step ladder. From now on, none of the five monkeys tried to reach for the banana anymore. There was no need for the water treatment from that point on.

At this stage the researcher replaced one of the five monkeys with a new monkey. The new monkey, not aware of the icy water treatment, tried to reach for the banana. Within fraction of a second the other four monkeys pounced on him and beat the hell out of him – again and again, till he stopped and did not try anymore. Note, that icy water treatment was not used anymore. The same process was repeated, one of the four monkeys who experienced the original icy water treatment was replaced by a new one, and again all the monkeys beat the new monkey to submission. Finally, the cage was populated by five monkeys of whom none have experienced the icy water treatment. The experimenter then introduced a new monkey to the cage. When this monkey tried to reach for the banana, all five monkeys jumped on him and beat the hell out of him. None of these monkeys knew about the collective punishment of icy water, none knew why they are not allowed to get the banana, but somewhat along the way they learnt that reaching for the banana is not allowed. They become the guardians of this rule without knowing its purpose.

The same happens in organisation. A rule, a regulation, or a procedure, is introduced for a reason. However, after a while, the reason for it is forgotten, but the rule, regulation, or procedure stays. Nobody knows why they are following it, but they all do. Take the blue ink – black ink example that results in loss of customers. Sometime in the past, this regulation was introduced, probably because when photocopied or axed, blue ink was not as clear as black ink. However, technology has moved fast since then. Nowadays we have colour photocopiers and the quality of fax is not affected by ink colour. It doesn’t matter anymore if the ink is blue or black, yet the original regulation is still there, resulting in client loss for no real reason.

So next time you work with an organisation that tells you – “sorry, we cannot do that – we have to comply with a regulation that says…” — tell them about the five monkeys and the banana.






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Pelé or Maradona?

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Feb.12, 2010, under Short Blogs

Pelé or Maradona?

 
 


 Dr Tuvia Melamed
ClearWater A&D
to download a pdf copy click here

 

 

 

 

Pelé or Maradona? — Probably the biggest ever debate among football lovers. The first led teams of ‘magicians’ to three World cup wins, equated the name of Brazil with football and established Brazil as the greatest ever football nation. The other won the 1986 world cup single-handed (literally, some might say). This blog builds on this timeless comparison to explore common issues in assessment for high level roles.

===========

Pelé or Maradona? — Probably the biggest ever debate among football lovers. The first led teams of ‘magicians’ to 3 World cup wins, equated the name of Brazil with football and established Brazil as the greatest ever football nation. The other won the 1986 world cup single-handed (literally, some might say). While all football fans refer to Brazil 1970 as the greatest ever football team with the likes of Tostao, Rivalino, Jarjinio, Gerson, and Carlos Alberto complementing the brilliance of Pelé; hardly anybody can name any Argentinean player who played alongside Maradona in 1986.

So who is greater, the team player who elevated a team to become the best team ever, or the individualistic genius, who demolished any opposition in his way with only a limited support of a mediocre and unmemorable team mates.

Pelé or Maradona?

If you are not sure, play the YouTube videos to see them in action

 

Difficult questions, but the difficulty may arise because these are the wrong questions to ask. Maybe we should ask: Can we restructure our operations to accommodate both candidates? or What set of skills would complement best the current capability we have in our business? Who is better, doesn’t help. They are both good. They will both deliver results.

Would Pelé of 1970 could have won the 1986 world cup with the mediocre Argentinean team? Would the individualistic capabilities of Maradona have complemented the magic of 1970 Brazil? We could only speculate. Nevertheless, the talent questions we focus on in business are always contextualized. We have seen too often business ‘A’ players, turning mediocre or becoming a liability once moved from one environment to another.

To avoid these issues, at ClearWater we have devised a methodology that helps to differentiate between true ‘A’ players, and one-hit wonders. Between those who are guaranteed to succeed wherever they are placed and those whose success is a case of being ‘the right person, in the right time’. We call it, ‘Mastering Complexity’ -- Click here to learn more.






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