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


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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What’s Wrong with Ability Tests

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

What’s Wrong with Ability Tests

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


One of the main disappointments in our profession is the current state of commercial Ability tests. After nearly 100 years since the first intrduction of ‘scientific’ measurements of intellectual capacity, you would have expected something much better than what we currently have.

I do not challenge the available ability tests in terms of their technical capacity – i.e., my criticism is not to do with questions of quality of normative data, nor it is about the validity and reliability of the measures. I take these for granted. What has been frustrating me for the last 25 years of my practice as a business psychologist is the limited output we gain from an ability test.

Most tests requires participants to spend close to an hour responding to demanding test items; yet, the final outcome in most cases does not amount to more than single figure – normally a percentile score comparing the performance of the test taker to that of a norm group (e.g., ‘you score above 63% of the norm group). This is a far cry from the rich output and interpretations you get from a personality inventory. No wonder that the British Psychological Society differentiates between Level A certificate of competence in occupational testing (ability tests) and Level B certificate that is dedicated to personality instruments. Relatively to personality instruments – there is not much to say about ability tests outcomes.

Do not get me wrong – I am not challenging the value of ability tests, and I am not suggesting that they should be replaced by ‘more-value-for-money/effort’ personality instruments. What I am opening to discussion is the frustrating state of affairs of limited output we get from ability tests.

The closest attempt to enrich the output of an ability test that I am aware of is the work of Robert Hogan with the HBRI (Hogan Business Reasoning Inventory). The test provides two scores – Strategic Reasoning and Tactical Reasoning. These are combined to create an overall critical reasoning score. Hogan provides an interpretation of each of the two individual scores (e.g., what are the implications of scoring 78% on Strategic Reasoning) as well as a very simple 2×2 classification into a 4-type typology based on the interaction between the two scores. As such, the report is far more informative than the typical practice of providing a single score. Yet, there is so much more that can be obtained from the available data.

The followings are some possible ways to utilise ability tests better:

  1. Wrong versus poor answers: The raw score on an ability test is made of the number of correct answers. An answer to a question item can be either ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’. Yet, the multiple choice approach used with the traditional psychometric approach does not differentiate between a wrong answer that is by far the worst option from a wrong answer that is closest to the correct answer. Consider the following simple example. A test item might be: ‘Glove’ is to ‘Hand’ as ‘Sock’ is to ____ (a) Shoe; (b) Arm; (c) Leg; (d) Foot; (e)Cupboard. Although only answer ‘d’ is correct, some of the answers are closer to it than others. Choosing answer ‘e’ indicates less ability than choosing answer ‘c’. Yet, the dichotomous scoring system of tests will view both answers as equal.
  2. Time to complete test: Most ability tests are time limited. Two candidates that take the same test and get the same number of correct answers will be considered as equal. Yet, if one took only 20 of the 40 minutes to complete the test; whereas the other took 40 minutes, there is obviously some difference in the ability of these candidates.
  3. Percent of correct answers:  Two candidates that took the same test and got the same number of correct answers will be considered equal. Yet, one may have attempted only 60% of the test items, where the other completed all items. There is a difference in the ability of the two candidates, but this is ignored when interpreting the results.
  4. Level of complexity: The work of Elliot Jaques suggested 8 levels of complexity of mental processes that are hierarchical, yet conceptually different from one another. Yet, most tests do not differentiate among levels of difficulty or complexity, and cluster all items together for scoring purposes. Thus, the interpretation of someone who scores highly on divergent thinking items and poorly on convergent thinking items should be different to someone who had a different pattern of scores. Yet, under the single score system; if the total number of correct answers is the same; both candidates will be viewed as equal.
  5. Interaction among sub-scores: Some tests provide sub-scores based on content (different to complexity and difficulty from the previous point). E.g., we get a breakdown of verbal reasoning, numerical reasoning, and abstract reasoning;  or a breakdown of strategic reasoning and tactical reasoning. Most test publishers leave it at that. Hardly any considers the interactions among the sub-scores. This is very different in personality assessment where the ability to interpret the interaction between two factors is considered far more valuable that the interpretation of the simple main effect of each of the two factors.

So, what I am looking for is an ability test that will provide me with richer information than simply telling me how the individual scored in comparison the norm group.

This frustration, led me to spend the last three years developing an ability test that utilises these ideas and provides rich and valuable output.  I called the final test Intellecto ©. You can find more about it on by clicking on the image to the left. To see an example of the output from it click here.

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Beyond IQ

by Dr Tuvia Melamed on Jan.26, 2010, under Short Blogs

Advances in Assessment of Intellect

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

 The traditional view of intelligence and its applications are challenged by a new model based on the capacity to handle complexity. The paper explores the validity of the 8-layer complexity model. While traditional measures of intelligence explain success up to technical-expert level and early management levels, they bear hardly any relationships with success at higher organisational levels. The complexity model was correlated far strongly with success across the all organisational levels


The mainstream study and application of assessment of intellectual capability has not progressed much since the pioneering work of Wechsler and Galton. An examination of early books on human intellect (Board of Education, 1924; Vernon, 1938; Welton, 1891), suggests that many of the ideas and their applications are still relevant and current in the 21st Century. More specifically, the concept of IQ and the components of human intelligence developed a century ago are still prominent in the field of assessment of intellectual capability.

Test publishers managed to package test items in far more appealing and  modernised ways, they have significantly improve presentation and language used, they introduce far more interactive IT driven test items, and they might as well used different terms instead of IQ (e.g., critical analysis and the like). However, conceptually, there is not much difference in what early ability tests measured and what contemporary ability tests measure nowadays. The application of psychometric instruments used in the 1st world war to select British Pilots, seems applicable to current requirements.

This paper explores a preliminary work using a different model of assessing human capability. The model uses the work of Elliot Jaques (1989) as a starting point, but progresses into different routes. It departs from the traditional model of the G factor, and the content-specific sub-sets that distinguish between various forms of reasoning (e.g., verbal, numerical, abstract, or mechanical). And looks at more eclectic approach, examining the ability to understand, and manage complexity. It shifts the emphasis from what can be called ‘Academic Intelligence’ (IQ) into the more business environment of ‘Executive Intelligence’ and complexity of business decision making. It departs from the view of evolutionary nature of human capability and suggests discontinuous and distinct steps in human capability.

More specifically, the proposed model suggests that there are 8 discontinuous and distinct layers of potential capability and that people develop by discontinuous periodic jumps (rather than linearly) from one complexity state to the next. The 8 layers are universal and cuts across organisations, industries, and nations. The ability to handle complexity is not static. It matures with age in a predictable manner. For applied purposes, the level of work complexity should be in line with the person’s potential capability. There are 8 parallel level of complexity in organisational roles that correspond with complexity of mental processes (see Box #1).

BOX #1 The 8 levels of the Complexity Model:

  1. Retrieval Thinking – Best Practice. Operating in a structured methodical way, covering all the relevant information, and interpreting the information correctly.
  2. Affirmative Thinking – Pattern Recognition. Creating a potential logical explanation or solution, based on a series of independent pieces of data. It is about bridging gaps in information, by seeking linkages between independent pieces of information.
  3. Convergent Thinking – Critical Analysis. Examining and evaluating given hypotheses. Using systematic reasoning to identify a correct answer from a series of available options. It involves verification of hypotheses. It equates what in everyday language is referred to as pure intellect.
  4. Divergent Thinking – Creativity. It involves the opening up or creation of new hypotheses, using induction – exploring the mass of information to identify possible trends and patterns – Thinking of many original, diverse, and elaborate ideas. Taking separate elements and blending them into something completely new and original. Combining previously unconnected ideas, information and elements to create something new.
  5. System Thinking – Innovation. It involves the application of creative ideas into the wider system and ensuring that these are viable, by exploring elements as a whole (or holistically) including the various types of relationships between the many elements in a complex system. Turning new ideas into practical reality, by understanding of the system in which the creative input will be placed, and their immediate and long-term implications.
  6. Transformation Thinking – Reframing. It involves visioning a new future, and repositioning of systems of information in a new perspective. It gives a new life and meaning to well-established structures, arrangements, and systems, by turning these on their head or viewing them from a completely different perspective, that enable them to achieve future vision.
  7. Reconstructive Thinking – Re-forming. It involves dismantling complex settings and re-building as something quite different. It takes the reframed reality, breaks it to pieces and re-models it to be fit for purpose. It involves inducing and deducing global information systems to solution routes.
  8. New World Thinking – Revolution. The creation of a new body of knowledge that takes our current understanding of the world to a new level. It involves challenging the most fundamental building blocks of our reality, and replacing them with something rather different, new, and unexpected. It replaces old world with a new one, a world that is significantly different (never the same) from what was known before.

 One of the key challenges that the complexity model poses to the traditional view of human intelligence is that it focuses only on Convergent Thinking – Pure logic and systematic verification of hypotheses. It is about narrowing down options to a single logical and correct answer. This is typifies in the common way of assessing Convergent Thinking – i.e., seeking a single correct answer from 4 possible options (multiple-choice method). The complexity model recognises the importance of Convergent Thinking, but views it as only level 3 on the 8-level model. Consequently, it suggests that Convergent Thinking will explain success and high performance in roles that require and heavily reliant on Convergent Thinking – i.e., technical-expert roles or lower management roles. For higher level roles, convergent thinking will have importance, but other levels of thinking or handling complexity become more important. The higher the hierarchical role, the less importance is placed on Convergent Thinking.

 A secondary challenge explores the effect of age. While traditional measures of intelligence are known to have a negative correlation with age; the complexity model explicitly suggests that the ability to handle complexity improves with age. Thus, the pure use of traditional measures of intelligence will show bias in favour of young people. Consequently, a hiring recommendation based on traditional measures of ability will favour young candidates. This seems counter-intuitive as it neglects the knowledge and experience that more mature candidates bring. The complexity model accounts for knowledge and experience. 


Explore the validity of the complexity model and contrast it with the validity of traditional measures of human intelligence in explaining success and high performance in a business context.

 Hypothesis #1: While traditional measures of human intelligence will explain success up to a technical-expert level, their ability will decrease linearly from that point as a function of role complexity. Measures of complexity, on the other hand, will explain success across all hierarchical levels.

 Hypothesis #2: The predictive validity of traditional measures of intelligence is impaired by the effect of age; whereas the predictive validity of complexity measures is not negatively affected by age.


The study is of 70 managers from 5 different organisations.. It used regression and correlation approach to explore and contrast the effect of traditional versus complexity measures of intelligence in explaining success and performance in a business environment.


Sample: The sample included 70 participants who took part in a talent identification and management programmes. Participants were from 5 different organisations.

 Predictors: (a) 2 Traditional measures of intellect (verbal and numerical) – Watson and Glaser Critical Thinking Analysis and Rust Advanced Numerical Reasoning Appraisal (RANRA). (b) 2 sets of measures of handling complexity. First, complexity profile – scores on each of the 8 levels of the complexity model; second, a single aggregate score base don the 8 scores.

 Criterion: The hierarchical level of the participant, using the 8-level organisational role complexity scale.

 Control Variables: Age and the 28 personality measures derived from the Hogan instruments (HPI, MVPI, and HDS).


Table #1 displays a correlation matrix amongst the study variables. Further analysis controlled for the effect of age through partial correlations. The results suggested that the Complexity Score correlated strongly with the success criteria (r = .80, p< .0001). The traditional intelligence measure (verbal and numerical reasoning) were barely significant (r = .27 and .29), and just below significance level when controlled for age (r = .23 and .24). As expected, the traditional intelligence measure correlated strongly with level 3 of the complexity model – namely ‘Convergent Thinking’ (r =.80 and .75). These correlations with higher thinking levels dropped in a relatively linear fashion.

A stepwise regression analysis explained 68% of the criterion’s variance, R² =.678, F(2,69) = 69.9, p < .0001. Only 2 predictors entered the regression equation, namely – Complexity Score (b = .52) and Level 5: System Thinking (b = .31).

 TABLE#1: Correlations and Partial Correlations Matrix for key variables (n = 70)

  Bivariate   Partial: control for age
  1 2 3 4   1 2 3 4
1. Role Level                  
2. Verbal Reasoning .27         .23      
3. Numerical Reasoning .29 .87       .24 .85    
4. Complexity Score .80 .29 .26     .80 .27 .24  
Complexity Levels                  
5a. #1 Retrieval Thinking .29 .44 .42 .23   .26 .40 .37 .21
5b. #2 Affirmative Thinking .50 .59 .61 .52   .28 .56 .59 .51
5c. #3 Convergent Thinking .41 .80 .75 .36   .36 .78 .70 .35
5d, #4 Divergent Thinking .66 .30 .24 .84   .68 .33 .27 .85
5e. #5 System Thinking .76 .29 .32 .81   .76 .25 .27 .81
5f. #6 Transformation Thinking .58 .19 .21 .73   .58 .18 .21 .73
5g. #7 Reconstructive Thinking .49 .18 .19 .63   .49 .18 .20 .64
5h. #8 New World Thinking *  

r ≥ . 25, p ≤ .05; r ≥ . 30, p ≤ .01; r ≥ . 38, p ≤ .001

* No variance was found for Level 8 Thinking (New World Thinking)


The findings demonstrated that while traditional measure of intelligence are repeatedly quoted as the single best measure of performance, their effect is somewhat limited to certain hierarchical levels within organisations. The complexity model seems to provide a better framework to explain high performance and success, as it is designed and cover the full range of hierarchical levels.


  • Board of Education (1924). Psychological tests of Educable Capacity. H.M. Stationary Office. London
  • Jaques, E. (1989). Requisite Organisation. Cason Hall, Arlington, VA.
  • Vernon, P. E. (1938). Assessment of Psychological Qualities by Verbal Methods. H.M. Stationary Office. London
  • Welton, J. (1891). A Manual of Logic. University Correspondence College Press Warehouse. Strand, W.C.

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