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Leaders . . . Trust and Control

Photo by  Jenn Evelyn-Ann  on  Unsplash

Leaders . . . Trust and Control

Leaders, like other employees, want to feel trusted. Too often, leaders see relationships, both between employees and between employees and the leaders, in a dichotomy of trust vs mistrust. This duality, masks that a certain amount of mistrust is healthy and the viewpoint promotes behavior--when faced with the fact or fear of losing trust--that often turns a workable breach-of-trust into a struggle for control. Who will be blamed for the loss of trust? What will be the fall out? Will it be swept under the rug?

Nan S. Russell, in a 2011 Psychology Today article about trust in the workplace, wrote that the opposite of trust isn't mistrust . . . it's control. She's right. Or, partly right. When trust fails, many leaders, as Russell notes, fall back on control. These leaders don't see grabbing control in these situations as, what they often are, self-defeating behaviors. They focus on their good intentions . . . of protecting the workplace, correcting wrong viewpoints, or introducing reason into emotional interactions. It never seems to occur to these leaders that if employees have lost trust, they may no longer accept good intensions as the defacto position of the leader. 

But here's where I might differ from Russell's assessment. Not all leaders, I'm not sure Russell is assuming this, grab for control. Some leaders, in my experience, don't step in with control; instead, they will "flee the field"--hiding in their office, avoiding issues and/or the people . . . in one case, an executive began scheduling himself "out of the office" daily for meetings, but the board eventually found out that he was leaving to "go to the boats" and gamble. Perhaps this in control in the sense that the leader is choosing to avoid, but it certainly does not feel like control to the employees. It's more like avoidance, or abandonment.

When leaders lose trust, they need to admit their mistakes, face the consequences of their actions, and lead their employees to a new plane of transparency, openness, and daily effort to make right what was wrong. Anything less is emotional or cognitive cowardice and not leadership.

 

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Ten Reasons "Controllers" Don't Recognize their self-defeating patterns

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Photo by Moja Msanii on Unsplash

 

Ten Reasons "Controllers"* Don't Recognize their self-defeating patterns

You've seen it. The person who tries to control a situation when they ought to just leave it alone. The guy or gal who can't see that their actions are causing more harm than good. Why do they do it? Why can't they recognize their own fear? Is it "poor insight?" A lack of psychological sophistication? Poor people skills? A bad childhood? Perhaps. But here are some more pragmatic ways to look at it . . . 

  1. It has become a habit. Controlling people control. In their minds, they are helping and often they are. So, the success of "making things happen" creates a Pavlovian-conditioned state (perhaps more Skinnerian) where the behavior is likely to reoccur.
  2. Other people respond to it.  Face it. A lot of people don't want to be in control. They don't want the responsibility for the outcomes and they are happy to give up that role to someone willing to step in and take it. 
  3. It masquerades as knowledge and wisdom.  Confidence, assertiveness, bold initiatives often give the impression that the person "must know" what they are talking about. Right or wrong the controller often is, defacto, given some credit for knowledge or wisdom by reason of their action.
  4. Controlling prevents facing internal pain.  Control is a way of avoiding uncertainty, inefficiency, judgement . . . a host of states that may cause the controller to feel ways they do not want to feel. "Taking the reins" for the sake of preventing these bad outcomes is often done "for others" but really is the controllers way to avoid these emotional states themselves.
  5. It looks like confidence and leadership. Since controlling is an active process, others have to secumb or fight to take an opposing point of view. Controllers, over time, tend to win by attrition as others "give up the field" and simply choose not to fight. The controller "gains ground" simply be their natural tendency toward being on the offensive.
  6. Negative consequences are not immediate. The consequences of the controlling behavior is often accommodated, tolerated, or dismissed . . . in the early stages, especially if the desired outcomes are positive. The organization is growing, the business is making money, or the family is thriving. However, over time the impact of the control implodes. People begin to react to the control. As outcomes diminish people begin to question the controllers behavior, motives, and vision.
  7. It is often disguised in humility and openness. Controllers who don't have good people skills are simply bullies. Those who do have these skills often cloak their control in positive ways. "I only want to help." or "You can, of course, do whatever you want to do. But, I think . . ." implying often that their answer is best.  One CEO, dealing with a benevolent controlling consultant told me, "She's so nice you almost don't mind the way she pushes you around."
  8. Criticism is not allowed.  By "criticism" I mean the critical process of examining ideas thoroughly.  Many controllers are good at making logically sound, quick decisions. They may under-value the process of allowing others to evaluate the decision-making process. This leads to unilateral decisions. Not fully getting other's on board and committed and when the outcomes turn negative leading to blaming the controller for their decisions and behavior.
  9. The motivation is to help. Hard as it may be to believe, one of the reasons controllers don't see themselves clearly is because when they look inwards they know that their motivation is good. They want to help. They clear away the confusion. They prevent inefficiency that is frustrating or hindering others. They get things done.
  10. It works. Bottom line. Controllers control because it works. It achieves the short-term needs of the individual, the team, or the organization. The question controllers fail to ask themselves however is, "Yes, it works, but at what cost?" Often it is at the cost of developing the leadership skills of people working for them, developing an achilles heel of a single vision, or in family business, trampling on relationships. Long-term what works maybe be antithetical to what works in the immediate moment.

Leaders, who tend toward control, need to find ways to check their natural instinct. This does not mean downplaying their strengths or abdicating the need for "controls" in their leadership. It means having good "checks and balances" on their natural tendency.  Develop ways to get feedback from other team members, take time to get an outside perspective, create habits to incorporate others into the decision-making process. See yourself as a resource, an encourager, an enabler . . . and less of a director, tactician or decision-maker. Recognize the leadership need others have for inclusion, affection, and their own control as you lead. Long-term the likelihood of success is greater.

Others working with controlling leaders need to firmly assert the need for the leader to develop a more rounded way of leading. This may not be easy for all the reasons cited above.  The controlling leader is not likely to "see" the need for changes. The appeal is often best couched in terms of the needs of the team or the organization. "We know that you have a lot of strengths. We need to you continue to build on those strengths to meet the future demands," is one way to approach this conversation. Don't wait for the crisis, where the deteriorating conditions force this leader to "admit" that something is wrong. Challenge them to grow and demonstrate a willingness to lead in a way that is often uncomfortable for them but of great value to those they are leading.

 

* "Controllers" in this context means, "minimally well-adjusted, mentally healthy" people who value control. Controllers here does describe sociopath control issues who control out of a need to dominate others, create win-lose scenarios, and/or who are mentally unhealthy.

Get more . . . Download an eBook from HSC!

Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading "difficult" people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

 

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I'm a Quitter! Ending Contracts . . . Finding Freedom!

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Becoming a quitter . . . ending contracts . . . and finding freedom.

I've become a quitter . . . and it's good!

I am, by nature, a loyalist.  Quitting feels like failure, disappointment, weakness. You see, I have an over-developed sense of responsibility, combined with a very strong bent toward avoiding risk, that makes quitting bad . . . very bad.  I'm also a midwesterner and, as such, we have the farm mentality; you don't quit you find a way to make it work. Bailing wire and duct tape. You can't quit on the crops or your equipment when you're out in the field. You gotta, "Getter done!"  All of which is why I am more comfortable with keeping contracts than ending them. I'd rather overcome problems (like the time I failed my basketball team), learn from mistakes if they're made, and create long-term trust and relationships. It's the path to success. Except when it's not.

A Story about Quitting

I tell a story on myself . . . that includes my oldest son (I don't think he has even heard me tell it) and a time when he wanted to quit detasseling.*  In short, I was so concerned about him quitting, that I called my Dad--who taught me a lot about leading, including the greatest leadership act I ever witnessed--seeking confirmation that I should make my son finish his commitment to detassel for the summer.  My Dad listened, then said, "He'll have to work the rest of his life, I think I"d let him quit."  "WHAT??!!!" I thought. " Did I call the wrong number?" This can't be my Dad. The guy who had us cultivate the garden every couple of weeks, all summer long, to keep us "busy and out of trouble?"

Well, it was my Dad, and his thoughts made me rethink how fearful I was about letting my son quit.

The end result was . . . I let him quit. I did, however, as a compromise, require him to set some goal for his summer (He decided to read the greatest 100 works of literature. Privately, I figured he had already read half but I let that go.) . . . and "that was that."  The summer wore on. He accomplished his goal. But no detasseling. No outside work experience. No savings.

I say that I tell this story on myself because I would have forced the issue and made him finish his commitment. Wouldn't that be best?  Well, here is the rest of the story . . .

My son went to college and found a great English mentor in a college professor.  The professor, himself, told me that he had never had a freshman student with such a grasp of literature. My son married the professor's daughter (no, I'm not making this up!), and, last year, he completed a Ph.D. in English.  

Wish he would have detasseled.

Learning to Quit

It's a lesson that has been hard to learn myself.  Quitting can be good. It still feels sooooo wrong. But, I read mentors and they often talk about "dumping" the bottom 10-25% of your "bad business" periodically.  I'm slow, but I've done it, and it has helped a lot.

For instance, I have one contract, for EAP services, that has been in place for 14 years, I like it, and its comfortable.  It checks all my boxes . . . loyalty, responsibility, safety. But other contracts had become more burdensome and did not lead to the future work I wanted to do.

So, one of the best things I've done--and for me the most courageous--is to end contracts. Me.  Myself.  Good contracts that would have continued if I didn't . . . I hate to say this . . . quit them.

In the past few years I have: 1. Quit a contract of 15 years that provided about 30% of my revenue but that had steadily become more time consuming and less fun, and 2. Quit a contract of about 12 years where I enjoyed the interactions with the staff but the work wasn't in line with my professional vision/goals. The revenue I lost has been replaced by work that is in line with the future business I want to do and has created more freedom, new energy, and helps avoid burnout..

So, I've become a quitter and it's good.

 

Have you benefited from quitting? Share your story about quitting in the comments and help encourage others!

 

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Contracting Quick Tip . . . for the good guys and gals out there.

Published by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Published by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Today I had, yet another, conversation about how to establish a price for some contract work. As always, in my world of nice folks who didn't grow up in the business world, I found the conversation filled with fear about asking too much.

Despite having been told that the job was already bid out at a price probably twice what they would ask for the job . . . the doubts about losing the work, fearing the customer to think they were trying to take advantage of them if they asked too much, and a lack of information about creating a fee structure . . . was driving the price down to the point I questioned if it was really worth doing.

Once again, I found myself talking about the costs of Labor and Overhead, the risks of underpricing and never becoming a real viable business, explaining how a profit margin is like insurance for the business protecting it against risk, and encouraging, consoling, directing, these nice young people into charging the full value of what they were providing.

"Don't cheat yourself," I said. "Develop a real price structure that can give you the confidence that what you are asking for is fair and then stick with it." "Don't give in to fear."

Afterwards, I though to myself, "I should have told them to take a picture of their newborn and post it on the computer" where they were writing their proposal. I should have asked them, "Is it fair to your son to give away your labor and give away the future support you can provide for him?" Too many good people sacrifice in this way.

I think original advice is what they really need . . . a well-thought out price structure to boost their confidence and ward against the "push back" of customers wanting to get a "deal." But until then, maybe it's time to post those pictures next to the computer.

Bryan

Trying to create prices for your services? Try out our trial Consulting Rate Calculator!

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VA to give Mental Health care to ALL veterans!

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I remember reading, years ago, that 12-18 months post retirement is a "risk period" for men.  Incidents of depression, suicide, and other problems peak during this period as men deal with losing their work identity. Imagine, for those of us who've never faced this, transitioning from "soldier" to "civilian" at the same time.  Well the VA has taken a bold step . . . .

Have you seen this?  The Veterans Administration is now going to give all new veterans one year of mental health care upon completion of their service--regardless of their disability status!

This is a major "sea change" and will require the hiring of 1,000 new mental health professionals to meet this need.   The VA is already seeking qualified candidates and it is possible that this may also raise the opportunity for professionals outside the VA system, in some areas, to provide services as well.

If this is your area of interest or expertise, check it out!

Bryan

Below is the page announcing this program and seeking qualified candidates.

Here's the link: 
https://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/46452/va-to-increase-veterans-access-to-mental-health-services/

 

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Failing the team . . . 0 for 6 . . . and learning about yourself.

Photo by  Max Winkler  on  Unsplash

Photo by Max Winkler on Unsplash

Failing the team . . . going zero for six! How I lost the game with our rivals . . . and learned valuable lessons about myself.

It was my Junior year. I wasn't, as yet, a starter on my high school's varsity basketball team, but I was the "sixth man," and expected to start playing "some minutes" during games. But I had not experienced anything like this . . . getting put into the game at a critical moment . . . with the game on the line . . . and it wasn't expected . . . not when all the starters were available and ready to play.

We were playing the "River Rats"--at least that's what we called our hated rivals--they called themselves the Bluejays. We were in their gym, "enemy territory," and the atmosphere between the two teams, and their fans, was electric. From the time we entered the gym for warm ups, we heard a lot of derisive comments and taunts from the home crowd. Our fans, having commuted the 30 miles in opposition, responded in-kind. Incidentally, our rivals insisted on calling us the "Ducks" while our mascot was properly called the "Dukes." I guess fair's fair. 

The game was a very close one through the first three-and-a-half quarters. The lead transferring, back and forth between the teams, while the player's effort, in line with the "energy" in the gym, was intense on both ends of the court. I sat, on the bench, absorbed in the action. I had been in the game but only briefly--to give one of the starters a "breather." 

The game was now coming to the critical final minutes. The score was still tight, our team was only a basket behind, but our starters, playing the entire game, seemed to be experiencing some "sag" in their intensity and, in our final time out,  the feeling that this game could easily "slip away" hung in the air.

"Miller, check in!" the coach barked. Caught off guard, but more than ready to join the "battle," I tore off my warmup and went toward the scorer's table as the horn sounded, and play resumed. The official at the scorer's table checked me in, and I sat on the bench at the scorer's table waiting for a "dead ball" when I would be buzzed into the game. Finally, the moment came, the scoreboard operator activated the buzzer,  the official on the floor waved me in, and I headed toward the court . . . then I heard coach calling, stopping me, and he waved me over . . . I changed direction and went to the coach . . . "It's your job to win this thing!" he said. "Now, go in there and do it!" he urged.

"Yikes!" I thought, "He's counting on me to win this game!" 

I moved out onto the floor and took up my position. At the time, we were on defense. "Easy enough," I thought.  Just "dog" my assigned player and make sure he can't get the ball. Play resumed, and the point guard, attempted to set up their offense by coming my way, dribbled toward my position--attack the new guy, fresh off the bench. I "fronted" the forward, my assignment, and preventing the pass to start their offense, the guard reversed the play to the other side of the court . . . leading to an attempted basket away from my side of the court. Job well done. The team boxed out the other players, took the rebound, and took over the ball. Down the court we went toward our basket.

Our offense was designed to have a forward (I was one of two) start the "rotation" by taking the defensive player toward the basket, then popping out, to the wing, to take the first pass on the left or right side of the court. I dutifully took my player toward the baseline, popped out, and received the pass.  As the point guard cut to his left, setting up a screen for the other forward coming toward me at the free throw line, I faked a pass to the middle. The defender bit, hard, on the fake, and I drove, wide open, toward the basket.

As I reached the basket, and leapt to complete the lay-up, the center defender crashed down hard and smashed into me--raking my arm and sending me under the backboard toward the end-line. The referee blew the whistle and the blatant foul was assessed. I had missed the lay up but I was awarded a "one-and-one." Meaning, for those not familiar with basketball, that if you make the first free throw, you would get a second attempt.  Convert both and it is no different than making the initial lay up. I went to the free throw line. My coach's words still ringing in my head. I had missed the easy shot. But getting fouled was a nice consolation. I was good at free throws.  I missed. The attempted shot, powered by too much adrenaline, hit the back of the rim and bounced away. No second free throw and no points. I was 0 for 2.

The next time down the floor was almost a repeat of the earlier play. I popped, received the pass, only this time the defender was not so ready to "over-play" the pass to the forward coming across the lane, and did not bite hard on my fake. I began to drive anyway, quickly gave a head-fake, as if to pull up and shoot. He went for it. Off his feet, I easily continued my drive to the basket and my second lay up. This time the center was helped by the off-side forward. They converged and I felt my arms, once again, raked by hands trying to stop the "easy basket." Again, the whistle blew, and again, a one-and-one was awarded,  as I had once again missed the lay up. I was now 0 for 3. 

Cognizant of the last free throw, I attempted to give this shot a little more touch. The ball arched gracefully toward the basket, hit the front of the rim, hesitated, then dropped, outside the basket. It was short, and I was 0 for 4. The other team rebounded the ball and headed the other way.  Surprisingly, they were no better at capitalizing on our lack of execution, and soon we were back on offense, the game still within reach.

One more time, I dutifully popped out, and once more I received the ball. The defender, aware by this time, I think,  that he was not quick enough to tightly guard a highly motivated "I'm-going-to-win-this-game" fanatic, crouched a couple of steps away and eyed me warily. I faked the drive, then a pass to the middle, and drove with the ball, once again, toward the basket. The defender anticipated this, however, and moved quickly to try and get an angle where I would not have another opportunity at a lay up. Seeing him drop back toward the hoop, I stopped--the player was out of position and it opened up the opportunity for an easy 10-foot jump shot. I barely got it off. The player, in desperation, grabbed at me, causing the shot to go wild, and the referee's whistle to blow. This meant I was now 0 for 5 but giving me, what I thought was, an intentional foul and 2 free throws.

Inexplicably, the referee told me that it was going to be, yet again, a one-and-one. Surprised, and wondering if the player had tripped when he grabbed me, if the referee had just got it wrong, or this was some home court advantage--I took the ball, bounced it three times, relaxed, bent my knees, and shot the ball. I missed . . . again. I was 0 for 6 and far from winning the game I was a significant part of why we lost that game in the final minutes.

I'll spare you the agony of the failure, the critical self-review, as well as other people's attempts to heal my wounded ego. But I will share how this utter, degrading, humiliating failure made me a better player . . . a better leader . . . and perhaps a better person.

I should say, I didn't learn all this that night. The walk to the locker room, the comments by other players, coaches, parents etc, the looooong bus ride home. It was not a night of inspiration or insight. It was a grueling ordeal to be endured. But returning to practice with my team, preparing for the games to follow, competing and once again being trusted to be on the floor during games, even when the outcome was uncertain, I began to learn from that failure.

Through this failure, I learned:

1. Confidence. Really? Yep! It took time but eventually, I realized that what had happened was not entirely a failure.  Before I had failed to perform, my Coach saw me as someone capable of playing both when the game was on the line and with the ability to take over and win a game. As we used to say, he recognized "He has game," meaning ability. My teammates were "sagging" and at least I had "good looks" at the basket. My shots were not necessarily forced or bad decisions. They were not executed successfully however. The following year, my senior season, the Coach implemented two plays for critical moments like the end of a game. Given my earlier failure, the two plays (see below) were counter intuitive, Never-the-less, Coach demonstrated, once again, his confidence in me as a player. 

2. Effort. Varsity players, even starters, could not stop me if I was determined. Only I could stop me. I frankly was surprised at how easy it was to get all 3 of my "open" shots on the basket. The defender simply could not prevent me from getting open. There was a problem however. When I went in for those first two layups and was pummeled by those senior players, I believed that I would not make those shots. After all, I was fouled! No one could be expected to make those baskets. I needed to learn some tenacity and how to complete a shot when I was fouled. I began to take pride in "going up hard" and making those baskets even if the defender "mugged me," making contact with my body, arm, or shooting hand, and seemingly making the lay up impossible.  My playing time increased along with my effort and soon I was playing "significant minutes" regularly and converting those lay ups . . . and the bones free throws if the foul was called.

3. Success is controlling myself. I didn't want to fail like that ever again!  I realized that my mistake was playing "out of control." I was trying to win the game. Me alone. Was my teammate open cutting across the lane? I don't know. I was planning my move to the basket. When the center crashed down on me, where was our center? Perhaps standing, open and unguarded, only a few feet from the basket? Probably. But I was going to make that lay up! I was going to win the game for the team, the coach, and--of course--myself. I played to win and my lack of playing with self-control hurt the team's chances.

4. Expectations are a two-edged sword. Trying too hard can be as bad as not trying . . . but I will never be okay with low expectations. It's a trap. How do I have "lower expectations" and still succeed?  The trick is, making sure the expectations you have are yours and they are reasonable. You control the effort you exert . . . but not the outcomes. Had I made all of my shots in that game would we have won?  Maybe. But I wasn't the only one playing that game. Taking on the projected expectations of others, or putting unrealistic expectations on yourself--the outcomes you hope for--is a recipe for failure.

5. Stay within Yourself. Don't listen to outside pressure.  I took Coach's words too seriously. I should have ignored them.  Afterwards, I realized that I accepted the premise, that it really was my job, and mine alone, to win that game. After all . . . that is the stuff of dreams isn't it? Hadn't I spent countless hours in my driveway, practicing for this exact scenario--taking the "winning shot"--and now I was asked to perform and I was ready to live the glory of winning the game. But the stress of accepting Coach's premise,  and my own expectations, failed me. I should have said to myself, "Right Coach, it's my job to win this game. Not the starters who played 90-95% of this game.  Not the team's job. It's mine." (Hear sarcastic tone of voice) Then, I could have ignored what he had said and just "played ball." I probably would have been more successful.

It was a painful experience but one that taught me a lot about myself and stood me in "good stead" for the future.  The next year, my Senior season, Coach had two standing plays for when the game was on the line. Called by our school colors, Blue and Gold, the plays were essentially the same play--mirror images of one another--one to the right side of the court and the other to the left. Both called for the team to get the ball to me, then the players would clear the floor--to one side or the other, and I would go, one-on-one against my defender. It was a role I learned to cherish.

 

Epilogue: Social scientists have noted that "finding positive attributes in bad experiences--even ones that are painful" is one indicator of resilience in children. I think the same is true of adults and of leaders. Too often, leaders faced with a failure spend their time trying hard to spin the failure into "non-events," finding someone to blame, defensively explaining their motives and avoiding responsibility or simply trying to hide from the repercussions of the experience altogether; rather than facing it, publicly, head on, and learning from it.

Failure is most often a complex situation. Rarely, is it as simple as "someone failed." It's a core belief in our work with leaders that failure often is an opportunity for a leader to learn and to grow  As Mohammad Ali put it, "You don't lose if you get knocked down, you lose if you stay down" and "Real success comes when we rise after we fall."

 

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Mistakes . . . Vulnerability . . . and Developing a Good Product

Photo by  David Beale  on  Unsplash

Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

Attending Practice . . . and Seeing something new!

I was confused. I sat watching a choir practice at my kid's college. As they practiced, I noticed a student raise his hand, the conductor nodded, then he put his hand down . . . in the middle of a song, what? . . . then another raised her hand, and quickly dropped it, then three students in quick succession did the same. This pattern of hands raising and lowering continued, as if I was watching human hands leaping around like popcorn being roasted, throughout the song--a continual violent punctuation of the air as the directer continued, apparently seeing, but mostly ignoring, this phenomenon--to direct the musical piece to its close.

I waited. Ready for the conductor to address this strange phenomenon.  "What is this . . . a prank?" I would hear him say. Or,  "You guys need to focus!  . . . If you have a question, quit raising your hands until the song is complete!" . . . It didn't come.

Now, I was even more confused. It's not like the entire experience was new to me. I have had a fairly extensive background in choir rehearsals.  I grew up on that same college campus and had seen practices--with more than one conductor--many times. I was in choir myself, both in High School and College. But never had I seen this behavior, or anything remotely like it.

They started practicing on a new piece--a fast-paced spiritual--and once again the "pop, pop, popity-pop" of hands began.

Slowly, I realized the connection. Students raised their hands every time they made a mistake!

Like an athlete watching "film" of their performance, here was a live-action critique of how well the chorus was performing this piece.  I watched and, despite my limitations in musical ability, I began to anticipate when and where the next hand or hands would rise.

I asked my son about it after practice. "Oh, he said, that's a way for Dr. R. to know that we are aware of a mistake . . . and so that he can see when particular parts are giving someone troubles, without having to stop the practice every time to correct something."  Voila! Nailed it. I'm not a trained observer for nothing!

Now, I began to reflect . . . This choir was good, no doubt about it.  They receive glowing reports, awards, financial backing, and acclaim and had for several years. I began to wonder about how the climate of "signaling errors" came to be accepted, comfortable, and the norm."  A few things came to mind about the practice as I observed it . . . 

First, mistakes were expected. There was no false sense that someone was doing it right all the time. When you make a mistake, you raise your hand. Not "if" but "when."

Second, identifying mistakes was seen as a process to creating a good product. If you know that you made it mistake then you can fix it. If you don't know, or try to pretend you didn't, you are less likely to fix it.

Third, it made individual members aware of their mistakes and focused on what they needed to improve. Undoubtably, no one wants to keep making the same mistakes, so acknowledging them in this public fashion leads to accountability to improve.

Fourth, it allowed the leader to have a good read on how well, or poorly, the team was performing at each stage.  The conductor was not having to take his focus away from his tasks to try and discover who wasn't getting the music correctly. They kept him informed through signaling the errors.

It was nearing the end of practice. I had become quite used to the hand raising and felt some what comfortable with the "what and why" of this new and odd technique. Then, the conductor made a mistake. He turned two pages, instead of one, and pointed his baton toward a section of the choir, there was a moment of hesitation, but the choir corrected and carried on. The conductor, noting something was wrong, quickly flipped back two pages, then forward one. He was back on track now . . . and he raised his hand. The choir laughed.

Mistakes and Business

When I myself, or when I and another consultant, work on a project, I always save time at the end of each step to do a "post mortem." I want to assess what went well, what was just okay, and what could be improved. These reflections and discussions are invaluable to continuing to grow and increase our value to customers.

I encourage leaders to do the same. Those that can honestly do this critical self-analysis, noting the successes and admitting the mistakes, are much more likely to see growth and improvement in their work teams.

But, it starts with the leader.  Employees will ask themselves, "Is it safe?" and "What does the leader really care about--quality or their ego?" before they themselves will risk being vulnerable.

If you want others to join in making the quality of something great, if you want them to be transparent about their mistakes and improve, if you want them to figuratively raise their hands then you have to lift up yours.

Yes, you can get good quality at times through control, coercion, fear and other factors but only leadership, transparent and honest leadership, will harness the good will, loyalty, and extra effort to truly develop a high functioning team and a top-quality product.

Finally . . .

If you want to be a great employee, increase the probability of advancement, and be a part of a high functioning team. The you also need to display these leadership traits. Yes, you need to assess whether it is safe to do so, but in the end, protecting oneself only leads to a mediocre team and merely delays the inevitable. Poor outcomes and failure.

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

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Louisville . . . famous sons and daughters . . . and learning!

When I was a kid, the only things anyone wanted was a Louisville Slugger.

When I was a kid, the only things anyone wanted was a Louisville Slugger.

Well the Interactive CE Training spring conference is done and so is my short stent in Louisville.  Isn't it interesting how we develop a perception of what place . . . even through we have never been there?  My vision of Louisville, while not at all thought out, was something of "blue grass, horse races, and basketball."

Arriving in the airport, I was greeted with posters like this . . .

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It came as a bit of a shock. "Wait . . . What?  Muhammad Ali was from Louisville?"  Yes, he was. Other "big names as well."  Tom Cruise, Paul Hornung, Jennifer Lawrence. Maggie Lawson, Diane Sawyer, and Johnny Unitas all called Louisville home at one time.  I had no idea.  George Clooney and Johnny Depp spent time nearby.  Louisville is bigger than I imagined more metropolitan than "down home" in the fell. Yet, everyone has that southern friendliness and sense of hospitality.  For example, people providing service in the midwest never say, "You doing okay, Hon?"

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But I wasn't here to conduct an anthropological analysis of the city. I was here to train a cohort of therapists how to add a new toolbox to their skill set . . . the toolbox of contracting and consulting with organizations.  Once again, I heard professionals talk about how the debt of education, low insurance fee schedules and other factors stress today's professionals and make them contemplate if they should "do something else" just to be able to pay their bills.

My goal for the training?  I told that attendees that the best outcome for me would be to get an email in 6 or 12 months telling me that they had a signed contract and that that contract had allowed them to . . . replace an old commuter vehicle, start a college fund for their kid, create or fund a 401K, or perhaps just take a weekend trip with their family.  That's what it's all about helping these professionals benefit from the value that they give to others.

It was especially fun to reconnect with friends from the past . . . former students and colleagues from my days of teaching.  Thanks to everyone who attended and participated in the training!  Thanks to Interactive CE Training for brining us to Kentucky! It was a great day and a great event.  Looking forward to continuing to support these great professionals throughout 2018 and beyond.

 

 

Calendar:

Next month we'll be attending the Prairie Family Business Association's annual conference. An exciting event that supports people in family businesses (like HSC) and the providers that help support them. 

Resources:

Free Private Practice through Contracting eBook.

We are now accepting inquiries for our 2019 Contract and Consulting Coaching. For more information, or to apply, email Bryan.

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Whole Foods . . . Amazon, my own "Order-to-shelf" experience . . . and "who has time to be inconvenienced?"

Photo by  jesse orrico  on  Unsplash

Photo by jesse orrico on Unsplash

 

 

Whole Foods (WF) has been in the news a lot lately. After being purchased by Amazon, the challenges of adapting to a new corporate culture and system have been highlighted. Chief among the points of friction is the "order-to-shelf" system that attempts to reduce the inventory that is wasted throughout Whole Foods.

Now, I have no connection with either Whole Foods or Amazon . . . and only know what has been reported in the media. True, or not, the story has implications for the positive and negative outcomes of a modern inventory management system.

This public issue has brought me back to my education and experience on business trends, particularly trends that have lead to ideas like this "order-to-shelf" mentally. This trend of managing inventory comes out of manufacturing settings were it is often called "just-in-time," this philosophy is a means to reduce the cost of inventory and help the company be successful. I first encountered this in an agricultural manufacturing company in 1998. Does the idea work? Sure . . . at least in theory . . . and sometimes, if done well, in practice. However . . .

Here's why I typically say it works "in theory and often NOT in practice.." We have a local store that is part of a national chain in a small town near where we live. We go there for all kinds of "acreage-related" needs. Feed, electrical, plumbing, outdoor wear. But increasingly, we are by-passing this store to go to an even smaller town to make our purchases--many of which are at a higher price point. Why? Because of the failures of a poor "just-in-time" system.

You see, I have had too many experiences with making the journey to big chain store (24 miles round-trip) only to find that they do not have enough inventory to meet my need. I go to buy six hinges and they only have five. I plan on getting an item that I know they stock only to find the shelf empty. I need a specific size of bolt and they only carry the most common sizes and they do not cary any others.

Contrast this to the other store. This store was a curiosity from the time it opened. It is obvious that one of the business strategies this family-operated store had from the beginning was to have an extensive inventory. When it opened many of us wondered how a little store in a very small town could keep such a large inventory and not go broke. Would they last beyond the first year? Well they have and it has grown exponentially. Talking with customers, it is clear that they are traveling from several counties to this little store because of the confidence that they can get what they need.

They are getting more and more of my business as well. For me, the bottom line is I'd rather pay a little more . . . than being inconvenienced. Every time I "waste a trip" to the chain store, I vow to make the family store my preferred destination. Especially when I reflect that this inconvenience is not only a waste of my time, it's also expensive--it means I will actually have to make another trip--back to the chain on another day (hoping the truck came in) or more likely, right away to the family store . . . and pay more anyway.

Once again, I have no doubt that inventory management systems, such as what Amazon is trying to implement, are a beneficial to the business if done well. Given the enormous success of Amazon, perhaps they will iron out the problems and Whole Foods will benefit. So if you can do this so well that it doesn't inconvenience your loyal customers. Do it. However, done poorly, the impact on the customer experience, demonstrates that the cashflow and bottom line are more important than the customer . . . and even the most loyal will go elsewhere.

The news about Amazon/Whole Foods also makes me reflect on what these systems do to the culture and engagement of the workers. But that's a consideration for another day. The news reports say that stress is high and seeing an employe crying has "become normal."

 

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Prairie Family Business Association's Conference!

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Family Business Conference in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in April!

Are you interested in Family Business? Do you live in the upper-midwest?  Then you might want to check our the Prairie Family Business Association or PFBA!  They just released their full conference agenda. We've been members for a little over a year, attended the 2017 conference, will be at the 2018 conference as well. It's a great resource for anyone in business with the relatives!

 

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Betrayed! The ultimate test of emotional intelligence . . . and character.

Photo by  Xavier Sotomayor  on  Unsplash

 

It's easier to forgive an enemy than it is to forgive a friend." ~William Blake

 

Everyone feels betrayed . . . eventually.

Yeas ago I saw an article that said 90 percent of men engaged in a particular habit. What caught my eye was the subtitle, which said, "10 percent lie." When it comes to the topic of betrayal in business I am tempted to re-assert the same adage, to wit: 

Ninety percent of people will feel betrayed at work. Ten percent lie. ~Bryan Miller

 

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The type of organization makes betrayal more, or less, of a risk

Where you work may determine if this sense of betrayal is easily managed or not.

For example,  if you work in a big conglomerate or corporate entity, a public or private sector workplace, or the military, you may be able to set it aside philosophically with a rationalization such as "it's only work" or "there is always one jerk" and alter your actions to minimize the impact  on your work-life.

But what if you work in a very small company? Or you work in a small professional practice, non-profit, or family business?  In these cases . . . it's not so easy. (see our posts on Preserving the Family Business or 9 Common Lies Family Business Owners Tell  Themselves.)

Experts have noted that their are certain types of organizations that are prone to present as more "emotional" than the typical corporation--these organizations often have the advantage of sharing stronger bonds (more like Blake's "friends" in the quote above) and are thus at a greater risk of a sense of betrayal. In fact, it is these close bonds--and the implied trust inherent in it--that makes the betrayal an especially dangerous threat.

 

When people feel betrayed, leaders need to step up!

Ever hear the statement that the employees know "where the bodies are buried?" Think about that statement for a moment . . . and about the literalness of that statement. The employees know "who has died (killed?) and that their final resting places are known." Maybe the burial plot is in marketing, or the warehouse, or the "other office."

It's too easy for leaders to ignore times when employees feel betrayed. Sometimes they blame the "victim" --"they take things too personally!" At other times, the threat is dismissed, "You don't have to like the people you work with." But feelings of betrayal will often erupt in conflict at critical moments or eat away like cancer on your organizational body.  Production will drop, employees won't be willing to contribute any more than necessary, negative behaviors increase.

Like it or not, a leader needs to "get into the problem" and help the effected parties come to a resolution. They need to "get over" their own issues with trust . . . and lead. But this often creates a threat to the leader . . . so, often, the leader can revert to "taking control" or they kick this task "down the road" . . . avoiding, for the moment, dealing with the threat of a diagnosable "organizational disease" or perhaps the need for surgery--possibly even amputation..

 

When you are betrayed, your Response reveals your character.

Yep, I get it. You're hurt. Your angry. What has been done is unjust . . . to you. It's patently unfair. It could have easily been avoided if only the other person would have just taken the easiest, and most normal, of actions. The one you would have taken. The one any good and decent person would have taken.

Maybe, it's even true, maybe someone acted, intentionally, in a way that violated a trust with, or allegiance to, you. Or perhaps a fair-minded person would have concluded it was a misunderstanding, poor communication, or the circumstances that was the causal factor. Never-the-less . . . it still feels like a betrayal.

When you are the one betrayed--whether real or perceived--how you respond says more about you than the event itself . . . or the other person.

Yes, there are true betrayals . . . the acts of people who truly have a cancer of the soul . . . but let's face it most of the betrayals that impact people can be, are typically are, seen differently by the two people involved. That is, the common "sense of being betrayed" is different from a empirical fact of being betrayed." Unfortunately, seeing this as something other than a genuine betrayal takes a certain amount of detachment--a detachment that is particularly difficult to find when one is hurt, confused, sad, or angry. Yet, it is the time when it is most needed.

So, don't tell me how rational you are being. How logical. How professional. The truth is, you feel betrayed. No amount of "pollyanna-ishness", sublimation, or denial . . . will eliminate this fact. Often those that are the most "detached, unaffected, or stoic" . . . are the best at hiding this truth from others, and sometimes themselves--but they too feel a deep sense of hurt, anger or resentment. So, the question is, "What are you going to do about it?"

When I was barely in my 30s, I faced this question--"What are you going to do?"--in a very personal and dramatic way. My younger brother, Kirk, was killed in a car-bike accident. Despite it being "no one's fault" the sense of betrayal--on many levels--was real. I won't burden you with the details, but I bring it up to say that when faced with this kind of pain, resentment, anger, etc. you need to make a choice to respond to it and move beyond it. 

Here are few suggestions:

1. Don't over-cook it. We all, at times of betrayal, focus on trying to avoid pain (see "Move through it" below) or wallow in the injustice of it. (My common adage about pain is, "When do you want to quit suffering? Yesterday.")  Of course, it is natural to rerun the events that lead to the sense of betrayal. Our minds are trying to understand and incorporate what happened. But there comes a time when we will make a choice (including the choice to not choose) and often it is too tempting to continue to re-live the sense of injustice. Don't do it. Sometimes, it's driven by the person's sense of guilt or shame in a form of unconscious self-punishment.

2. Move through it.  Yes, you can try to avoid it or go around it but the shortest path, and often the only choice that leads to a good long-term outcome, is to go through the experience of betrayal. What does this mean? It means acknowledging the sense, and the impact, of being betrayed. It means taking the time to sort through the repercussions of the even and finding perspective about the event and deciding how to act based on what actually happened. It means applying emotional intelligence to the other person, yourself, and the situation. This isn't easy. It takes courage and a willingness to feel vulnerable or "at risk" for a while.

3. Create a plan of recovery. Part of acknowledging the sense of betrayal and deciding how to act is to make a plan for how you will recover; It's not anyone else's job and, really, no one else can do it. Now, a plan doesn't necessarily mean "a plan." That is, some will actually draw up, make a list, or schedule activities to help themselves recover. They are the "list-makers" and it works for them--"Good on ya." For the rest of us, creating a plan for recovery means allowing yourselves the time and actions to recover. Adopt some boundaries with others to protect yourself. Do activities that have the possibility of "feeding you" rather than demanding more of you. Lower your standards . . . for a while. Take care of yourself and let yourself recover . . . just like you would if you had major surgery.

4. Get outside. No not "outdoors" (although maybe that helps too!) Get outside yourself. Focus on someone or something else. When you have been betrayed the focus narrows. For a while all the energy is focused on "how could they do this to me?" News flash: You are not the first, nor will you be the last, person betrayed. This initial focus, as we said earlier, is quite normal. But don't get stuck there. Often people begin to recover by focusing on something else; a person or cause where they can focus that energy in a positive way. This begins to remind us that it's "not all about me" and gives us motivation to keep going. To move on you need perspective this can help with that but often it takes time and choice to make this effort.

5. Find support from the right people. It's nice to have indignant friends that "have your back" and will be appropriately miffed at the betrayal. There role is to "make the right sounds" by affirming that you were betrayed, that the other person treated you unjustly, and you have the right to feel what you feel. But, as reassuring as this is . . . It's more important to have well-balanced people who will both support you and, when the time is right, refuse to "jump on the band wagon"--taking sides in an on-going dispute (being "loyal" or an "apologist" for the other party), and carefully helping you to move away from being stuck in your betrayal. It's great if you have that person in your circle of family or friends. If you don't, you may need to use a professional coach, consultant, or counselor.

 

 

 

Bryan Miller is the President of Human Systems Consulting; HSC helps leaders sleep at night and enjoy work again by improving the human-side of organizations. Bryan is the author of Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business and other helpful resources.  Questions or comments? Contact Bryan here.

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

 

 

 

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Our Small Town Bank Locks it's Doors . . . and reminds me of a "road not taken" . . . and an Opportunity!!

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

The letter . . . For privacy reasons, the full letter is available to my email subscribers.

Our small-town bank locks it's doors . . . a road not travelled . . . and an opportunity!

A bank employee will now let you into the building . . . but only with the proper ID.

Our town only has a population of 2,000 . . . and it's in the middle of a rural area, in a state that has been referred to as "fly over country." So it's a bit shocking to get a letter like the one in the photo. I mean, this "ain't New York City!" to adapt the advertising slogan. We're used to leaving our doors unlocked, the keys in the vehicle, with the naive confidence that people generally "mean well" and can be trusted. No, this isn't "Mayberry" from the Andy Griffith show. But it's close. 

A quick side-note. Our site has grown over 60% this year. Thank you to everyone for visiting our site, recommending us to others, subscribing and and following our blog. We will continue to offer content through our blog, email list, and  our free eBooks in 2018!

Anyway, this letter reminded me of an event that happened about a decade ago. A bank President called me. She asked if I would be interested in setting up a state-wide Critical Incident Stress Debriefing network for her bank. At the time I was the Executive Director of a counseling center and had worked with bank leadership on a couple of her work-teams. 

I told her that we might be interested, but that I would have to find out more about what setting up and running a state-wide CISD network would require. My first call was to my professional "guru." He told me right away that the state operated a CISD team and that I should contact the head of that department. I did.

The result was disappointing . . . at best. It was clear that contact with this state-run program would be of no help what-so-ever. The program, to be fair, was designed to help "first-responders," an admirable ambition, and it was clear in the conversation with this bureaucrat that there was no room to provide this service to anyone outside the governmental system. To his credit, he was brutally clear; the legislative focus was on government and, as such, they would not provide advice, training, support, or even make available the names of counseling professionals they used across the state for their CISD services. It was a complete dead-end.

I called back the bank President. I described the experience with the state and informed her that, without being able to tap into existing resources, we simply would not be able to develop and provide this service. We were not equipped to identify, train, support, and provide the services state-wide as a small center with less than a dozen professionals on staff. It was not the right opportunity for that organization and my focus, at that time, was on building up the organization--not seizing on the opportunity to contract with the bank to develop and deliver this service.

But truth be told, it bugged me. I've never worked in government--but I have had a number of grants and contracts with legislative branches--and I am fully aware of the constraints under which they serve. What galled me was that here was a legitimate need and it went unmet. Being a problem-solver by nature it just didn't seem right to drop it. But we did.

This experience did teach me a few things that might be of use to you, my readers. Mostly, that their are unmet needs all around you and if you can uncover them, and find ways to help, you will never be without work to do and people who will pay you for the value of that work. But, more specifically . . . regarding this opportunity . . . 

1. Banks, fast-food restaurants, retailers have lots of attempted, and some completed, robberies that never make the news (in fact, in many cases, they work hard to make sure they don't!).

2. These events can cause significant turn-over and often negatively impact employee morale . . . directly impacting the "bottom line" of the bank.

3. There is no established system for addressing this need in the for-profit world. (at least not here or to the knowledge of many professionals I have asked in the past decade)  and despite training on what to do in such events and some education of the effects, there is no systematic follow up or support when the events occur.

4. There is no recognized standard way to recognize those that have expertise in helping these organizations (no state licensure or certification for CISD/M in general). Psychologists and counselors often get referrals for people who have been traumatized by these incidents and who are experiencing anxiety or other symptoms but it is rare (excepting, perhaps, public school settings) to provide this support at a group level.

Conclusions?

This is an untapped area for private practice consulting for professionals who want to get trained, develop expertise, and market these services.

 

 

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