Do you work for a two or four-letter organization?

As a collaboration coach, I help workgroups and organizations become more effective collaborators. Unfortunately, many people misunderstand and misapply collaboration and never realize the full benefits of a collaborative approach to work and especially change leadership.

Hearing an organization cough up them

Medical doctors listen to ill patient’s describe their symptoms. The first symptom of organizational dysfunction I listen for is employees’ use of a particular four-letter word during my initial assessments. The symptomatic word is “them.”  When I hear a Senior VP of Marketing referring to the Operations staff as “them,” it pings my consulting radar and as soundly as running headfirst into a concrete silo’s wall. Ouch! Everyday use of the word “them” to describe other organizational stakeholders inside or affiliated with the organization indicates that I am probably dealing with a four-letter organization, where collaboration is likely not a core competency. Four-letter companies manage functional verticals and view the organization’s purpose vertically. I typically find turf wars, information hoarding, conflicting priorities, and office politics in four-letter organizations.

Healthy We and Us

The opposite of a four-letter firm is a two-letter organization. Two-letter organizational cultures feature the words “us” and “we” in much of their interdepartmental conversations. Two-letter companies usually have fewer organizational silos and interdepartmental rivalries and conflicts. Two-letter companies have employees who are more unified in their identities and view the organization horizontally across functional areas in the same way as their customers. Silos and swim lanes are rare in two-letter companies and are fertile ground for collaboration to grow and thrive.

Collaboration can be an organization’s superpower

Why is collaboration an essential organizational competency in a highly competitive, complex, and complicated environment? According to years of academic research, collaboration is the most effective way to lead significant change.

Most people misdefine collaboration. Researcher Michael Winer defined collaboration as a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by people or organizations to achieve common goals. The collaborative relationship includes a commitment to mutual relationships and goals; a jointly developed structure and shared responsibility; mutual authority and accountability for success; and sharing of resources and rewards. Cooperation and coordination are complementary yet distinctly different human processes from collaboration.

Collaboration depends on establishing and sustaining trust, shared vision, communication, and many other factors. Further academic research has identified 22 essential elements for effective collaboration. Collaboration is a potentially powerful game-changer for organizations that view the ability to be agile and successful in change initiatives as mission critical.

Watch your language

My first organizational lesson in creating collaboration as a competency is to sensitize participants to their language, referring to the other people they work with and their key stakeholders. We try to plant the seeds of a growing “us” and “we” organization while pulling the toxic weeds of “them.” Perhaps I should have my next client make a “them jar” and fine people who use that four-letter word to describe a fellow team member. 😊

There is only “us” in any organization. “We” have to figure out how to protect a unified “us” concept so as not to become distracted by intermural issues. If you are interested in creating a two-letter organization, I welcome a chance to talk more with you. I am happy to share how you can use The Science of Motivation® to improve collaboration. Let’s work together so your employees will work together better.

Views: 110

Is Leadership What You Think It Is?

The late James MacGregor Burns, Ph.D. wrote in his seminal 1978 book, Leadership, “If we know all too much about our leaders, we know far too little about leadership. We fail to grasp the essence of leadership that is relevant to the modern age and hence we cannot agree on the standards by which to measure, recruit, and reject it… Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth.”  p. 2.

A search of Merriam-Webster’s Online English Dictionary does not offer a business use case for the word leader.

We have allowed the words management and leadership and leader and manager to become synonymous when they are descriptions of different phenomena.

Harvard Professor Barbara Kellerman, Ph.D. wrote in her 2012 book, The End of Leadership,

“Hero-leaders are part of our collective psyche—they serve a psychological purpose. Mythologist Joseph Campbell wrote, “Freud, Jung, and their followers have demonstrated irrefutably that the logic, the heroes, and the deeds of myth survive into modern times.” Freud certainly was fixated on both leadership and followership, convinced not only that “the leader of the group is still the dreaded primal father,” but that the group itself, all groups, long for a strong leader. “The group,” he maintained, “has an extreme passion for authority”; and individuals have “a thirst for obedience.” Similarly, Jung developed a heroic archetype, a hero-leader who appears and reappears, everywhere, throughout human history.” p.3.

Burns and Kellerman both approach leadership from a political science perspective. The governmental context greatly influences their leadership paradigms and keeps them locked in a leader-follower relationship. One must contemplate the different organizational and role requirements of business and government to differentiate between the two distinct contexts.

In 1991, a little know researcher, Joseph C. Rost, Ph.D., a contemporary of Burns, published his book, Leadership For The Twenty-First Century. Rost offered a scientifically derived re-definition of leadership that dramatically changed the leadership paradigm for industrial to postindustrial.  Rost defined leadership as, “an influence relationship among leaders and followers (later revised to collaborators by Matthew Chodkowski, Ed.D., Founder, of The Institute for Postindustrial Leadership at the University of Indianapolis.) who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes. p. 102. Chodkowski explains more at

Leadership is not synonymous with good or effective management. Leadership is nearly synonymous with collaboration.  Leadership is a change-focused collaborative relationship among collaborators.. A postindustrial leadership paradigm creates clearly defined organizational roles and responsibilities which can be trained and developed.

We have an opportunity to clarify between manager and leader and between the distinctly different social phenomena of management and leadership and help our commercial organizations to evolve past the obsolete hero-worship of leaderism.

Leaders are not a more evolved or desirable aspirational elevation of managers. They each serve different roles of different situational value.

Managers are responsible for the ongoing organizational governance and administration. Managers seek organizational and operational excellence through the organization’s value-creation system.

A leader is a naturally willful person who is sensitive to and intolerant of feelings of dissatisfaction with the current or anticipated future situation. A leader can exist anywhere in an organization. A leader must be curious to explore situations to understand how they might alter them in ways the leader believes to be desirable. A leader must be courageous to voice their perspective in an influential way. A leader must be committed to the political process of persuasion and influence to win others over to their way of thinking. Leaders must be culturally savvy to navigate the system they wish to change successfully. A leader is wise to be self-aware of their cognitive biases and blind spots.  A leader leads others to enact their envisioned innovations or changes.

A collaborator is a person, empowered by management to episodically collaborate with others using mutual influence to enact significant changes aligned with their mutual purposes.  If there is no sensed dissatisfaction with the current or envisioned future Warren ting a significant change, then there is no organizational need for leadership and management will provide continuity of operations.

In a business context, leaders do not do leadership to followers.  Collaborators do leadership together to enact real changes.

When one clearly defines the appropriate roles of managers and leaders, they can train and practice the required skills to create collaborative change leadership as an organizational competency.  They will no longer worship at the Leaderist alter and will not rest in the unrealistic hope of a heroic leader riding into the C-Suite on an armored war unicorn to save the mere followers from disruptive changes caused by a complex and unknowable future.

Views: 167

A Ladder of Inference is Made of Values

User:Biogeographist, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How do we make sense?

Researchers and scholars have been trying to understand how we make sense of our experiences for ages. Chris Argyris and Donald Schoen created the ladder of inference model to describe human decision-making. This model shows how we become consciously aware of available data and attribute meaning to that data, ultimately influencing our actions. For example, let’s say you observe the weather widget on your phone, which indicates that the outdoor temperature is 100 degrees Fahrenheit. You might interpret this data as meaning that it is very warm outside. As you continue to climb the ladder of inference with this now meaningful data, you may conclude that it is too hot to go outside because you believe it will make you very uncomfortable. Since feeling uncomfortably hot is undesirable and being in a cooler temperature is more pleasurable, you decide to stay inside. This process occurs frequently throughout our days. We need to recognize that we have the ability to consciously choose to reassess our subjective interpretation and meaning of the data as we go up or down the rungs of the ladder. For instance, if we were in the Mojave Desert where temperatures regularly exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, then 100 degrees may seem comparatively more inviting for outdoor activities.

What is a ladder of inference made of?

Our values form the rungs of our inference ladder. They influence our selective perceptions, judgments, attention, emotions, and actions. Based on the studies of Prof. Steven Reiss, Ph.D., there are sixteen basic human needs that we all naturally value. However, what sets us apart as individuals is the way we prioritize these needs and the quantity necessary to achieve temporary satisfaction. Our values play a crucial role in our conscious awareness.

We naturally are consciously aware of what we value or what matters most to us personally. We tend to ignore things we do not value. So, if we look at the data pool our ladder of inference rises out of, we are much more likely to focus on data that aligns with our values and ignore conflicting data. Some refer to this natural tendency as a preference or bias. But, as you will see from this brilliant infographic below from, we have many built-in biases that influence our sense making processes and memories.


Advocates of the ladder of influence advise to try to never climb any higher than you must to form an appropriate response. The higher we mentally climb up the ladder, the more removed we become from the actual data.

Testing our inferences

Consultant Richard Schwarz offered a simple series of questions that we can use to test the validity of our inferences.

  • What data am I considering and not considering?
  • What is the simplest and most generous way to explain this data?
  • What are the likely consequences if I act on my inference as if it is true? What are the likely conequences if I act on my inference as if it is false?
  • How can I test the validity of my inference?
  • What is a wise response to my inference?
  • Now, the biggest question: What about this data matters most to me? This step asks you to consider your values.

We often use our inferences to tell us a story that we believe is true to explain or make sense of whatever we are thinking about or experiencing. Using the ladder model can help us to consider the possibility that there are other possible explanations for the data or that our story is incomplete or wrong.

We forget we wear glasses

We view everything we see and think through the lens of our values. We use our values so instantaneously that we often are unaware that we are making value judgments. It’s like we forget we are wearing our sunglasses indoors until we finally realize the room is darker than it should be. Our values are our primary filter to sort out what data we notice and what we ignore. This is why our values are our foundational framework used to create the ladder of inference.

What matters to me?

We naturally know what matters most to us based on our values, but we may not be able to rationally prioritize our values. We also may find it difficult to communicate our values to other people, especially if they have opposite values. Professor Reiss addressed this issue by creating the Reiss Motivation Profile®. This tool measures how you prioritize the sixteen basic human values and how intensely you experience these values compared to other people. Armed with this critical values data, you can better understand how you choose the data you notice and how your values influence your judgment at each rung of the ladder of inference. The data represents what information is available to consider, and your values predict why you will be motivated to notice some data and ignore other data.

Everyone uses a different ladder

Everyone uses a different ladder of inference created out of their values system. This is why we each have different perspectives, inferences, opinions, and conclusions. Ignorance of the fact that we each experience a different subjective version of reality in near real-time causes frustration, interpersonal conflicts, and reduces the effectiveness of collaboration.

Dialogue is our most effective means of understanding another person’s ladder and explaining our own. We cannot assume our inference is the only possible explanation for the data we encounter. The view is likely very different a few rungs up on someone else’s ladder of inference. Multiple perspectives can conflict and yet all be true or at least believable. It is unwise to believe one person’s viewpoint is the only way to make sense of the true story. Before you try to collaborate, talk about each other’s values and then invite everyone to use their ladders to share their version of the story that makes sense to them.

Views: 91

Warning: This is a POOPy Post on Doing Your Business

“If you want to be the boss, you must deal with a lot of sh#t!” said my usually reserved Dad, who was then President of Dix Enterprises, Inc., a mid-sized athletic equipment reconditioning company.  I worked with my Dad the month before I started graduate school, and I had asked him what it was like managing a business.

Now it’s many years later, and I am President of AD Growth Advisers Incorporated. I have worked for many companies, and I have consulted for even more. I can honestly say that my Dad was right!  Every company, no matter the size, is a POOP factory.

POOP is my acronym for:

  • Problems
  • Obstacles
  • Opportunities
  • People Issues

If you are an executive or manager, you are probably knee-deep in POOP daily.  If you do not deal with it, the place starts stinking.  Even if you try to deal with it, any aspect can bind up the organization and cramp performance.  Executives often don’t know if they need a plumber or a business consultant to flush out their systems.

Whenever we look to make positive changes to turn the fertilizer into fertile ground for business growth, we need to remember the four areas that enable a business.

  1. People
  2. Processes
  3. Technology
  4. Finance

POOP can stick to all four areas and cause severe performance issues.  Fortunately, one can use a systematic approach to understand the root cause of the POOPy situation and then can create some managerial MiraLAX® to relieve the situation.

I recently worked with a business owner who was an engineer by training.  I reviewed with him a performance formula to help explain what drives businesses.  P=f(P1 x P2 x T x F x E)-I.   Performance (P) is a function of people (P1) interacting and experiencing processes (P2), technology (T), funding (F), and the working environment, minus interference (I), or what I call POOP.  The key point is that performance is a dependent variable, and the rest are independent variables subject to our influence.

If we want to change performance, we must change some or all the other variables while minimizing interference.  Changing one variable may also have an unintended negative impact on others.

Fortunately, as a performance improvement specialist, I can help you to assess performance issues and get to their root causes accurately.  Then we can co-create strategies to eliminate or control the issues and return your business back to healthy performance.

If you are tired of dealing with POOP alone, let’s have a POOPy conversation and see if we can clean up the mess and get you back to work.  My expertise is with people performance problems.   I work with highly experienced colleagues at Apeiron Network who are experts in processes, technology, and finance.  We can work with you to create a holistic approach to take care of the POOP and allow you to focus on growing your business.

Use this link to schedule a convenient time to discuss your situation.

Views: 72

Leader Has Become Meaningless

Reading LinkedIn posts on #leader and #leadership has me frustrated,
confused, and more than a little discouraged. Most people have no idea what the words leader and leadership mean. Do we even understand what we are talking about regarding leaders and leadership?

Merriam-Webster offers the following two definitions of the word leader relevant to business usage:

(1) a person who directs a military force or unit

(2) a person who has commanding authority or influence

The next time you see a feel-good business quote on leaders like “the best leaders take the best care of their followers,” ask yourself, do they mean someone directing a force or using commanding authority or influence? Do we even understand what the word leader means anymore? Do we care about its true meaning and creating shared understanding with others?

The word leader has become so overused and misused that it has become so vague as to be meaningless. If two people see someone doing something, would they both identify the activity as leading? Leader can mean so many different things to people that it no longer communicates a shared understanding of what it attempts to describe.

Dr.Matthew Chodkowski, Co-founder of the Institute for Postindustrial Leadership at the University of Indianapolis, fears leader and leadership have both become misunderstood. In a recent LinkedIn post, Chodkowski wrote, “Leadership slogans and clichés are nice; at best, they are harmless; at worst, they are inaccurate. But when pressed actually to define the word “leadership,” it becomes apparent that virtually no one defines leadership and virtually everyone describes a leader. This is because we are under the influence of the obsolete industrial leader-centric leadership paradigm. Still today, so-called “leadership” books are stories about leaders – – and so-called “leadership models” are about leader behaviors.

“Leadership for the Twenty-First Century” by Joseph C. Rost, Ph.D., is exceptional.

We can no longer cling to the industrial paradigm of a leader in a world moving toward the postindustrial paradigm of leadership. Leading followers and following leaders is not leadership. Leadership is an influence relationship among collaborators who intend and enact real significant changes that reflect their mutual purposes. The crisis in leadership in 2022 is not understanding what leadership is. Leadership was never just the leader. Leaders and followers BOTH practice leadership when they become COLLABORATORS through reeducation and personal growth and development. This is neither a “demotion” for a leader not a “promotion” for a follower.”

In a subsequent post, Chodkowski commented on a leadership infographic. He wrote, “Another platitude and misguided cliché. This is a classic example of being influenced by the leader-centric mindset. Do you see how easily the word “leader” produces the mental image of someone good or great – – or maybe even heroic? (We all know there have been unethical, immoral, narcissistic, arrogant, and evil leaders). Interestingly, we do not automatically ascribe the qualities of goodness or greatness to the word “manager.”

Leadership is not a more highly evolved version of management.

We must overcome our obsession with leaders. We must stop making the word “leader” synonymous with “leadership.” When we understand that leadership is an influence relationship among collaborators who intend and enact real significant changes that reflect their mutual purposes – – we will stop idolizing and romanticizing leaders. Creating leaders is not leadership.

There will always be leaders and followers. But leading followers and following leaders is not leadership. We can no longer cling to the industrial paradigm of a leader in a world quickly moving toward the postindustrial paradigm of leadership.”

Why does any of this matter?

Artifacts of the misuse and misunderstanding of leader and leadership have contaminated organizations. We have created a cult of heroic leader worship in companies that limits their success.

It is common to have impossible-to-achieve competencies such as “Lead by example” and “Be a proactive leader” appear in people’s job descriptions and evaluations. How can these vague directives and expectations be observed, measured, and evaluated? Do you just “know it when you see it?”

I am beginning to believe that we have experienced so much ineffective, bad, and sometimes sadistic management that business gurus are trying to rebrand management, governance, administration, and bossing as leading and leadership. A leader is thought to be a more advanced, emotionally intelligent, empathetic, caring, and inclusive person in authority. Billions of training dollars are invested annually to equip people to be leaders and to do leadership. According to leadership researcher Joseph C. Rost, Ph.D., most leadership-centric and leadership development training is mislabeled management training. This training is not bad, but it doesn’t teach executives and others how to do leadership, which is collaborative problem-solving and co-creation activities.

We are teaching people to take command and direct as leaders in a world that has evolved into expecting inclusive collaboration.  People’s response to being commanded in the name of leadership is quiet quitting and the Great Resignation.

We need more collaborators and not more leaders

Our organizations have become complex. Operating in a matrix organization reduces the effectiveness of a hierarchical organizational structure with command and control as its primary mode of operation obsolete. Success depends on organizations enacting significant changes with agility and speed. We do not need more leaders trying to be in charge and do leadership to other people so that they will do the leader’s will.  We need highly effective collaborators who can work with each other to reach consensus rapidly and then execute changes and innovations, and capitalize on opportunities throughout organizations.

This means executives and business owners must rethink what skills are taught in leadership training and what expectations are placed in job descriptions.

Organizational Skills that Lead to Success

I work with executives and business owners to develop collaboration as a cultural value and organizational competency.  Extensive research conducted by Paul W. Mattessich, Ph.D., has identified 22 success factors for effective collaboration.  When we think of leadership as collaboration and collaboration as a way to solve problems and co-create innovations, we can start teaching people new ways to work together better.

If you want to increase performance and reduce much of the turf wars and silo defense holding your company back, then let’s talk about collaborating to bring my Working Better Together Collaboration Workshop to your organization.

The next time you read or hear the words leader and leadership, ask yourself, “what do they mean?”  Once you develop a Postindustrial Leadership mindset, you will find most leadership conversations actual nonsense. Then you will be ready to collaborate for better solutions.

Donald Clark offered some incredible history and context for the rise of the cult of leader as hero worshipers in his ISPI Conference presentation.

Views: 199

Time for a Restart?

For the past two weeks, I have been restoring my Bike E to a ridable condition. It was in a sad state from sitting dormant in my garage since Fall 2015. It needed some serious TLC, two new tires, and an air shock rebuild.

My first ride after the restoration work was genuinely joyous! I had forgotten how much fun and enjoyment I received from riding this somewhat ridiculous bicycle. I asked my wife, usually the family historian, why I stopped riding back in 2015. She had no idea, and neither did I. Some Fall day, I pulled into the garage, put the bike away, and didn’t pull it out again. I also park my car right beside it. All those days, I no doubt saw my beloved Bike E and yet never really thought to take it out for a ride.

Stop Start Continue

One of the coaching exercises I regularly use with my clients is Stop, Start, and Continue. We reflect on what the client could stop doing that is not aligned with their values and goals and start and continue to do that is in alignment. In the future, I may add Restart to my list. What do you need to restart that you used to do that worked for you? As life happens, we often get out of our good habits and do not think to restart them again. But like riding a bike, we never forget how; we don’t remember how satisfying it feels to do those good habit activities.

What have you stopped doing that brings you joy that perhaps you might try restarting?

What Makes Your Inner 10-Year-Old Self Grin?

Robert and John Haynes

My friend and flight instructor, Robert Haynes, called and asked if he could borrow my Cessna 177 Cardinal to take his Dad, John Haynes, for a flight. John is 99 years old and has a long and varied aviation career, including being a WWII Navy carrier pilot, airline pilot, aircraft mechanic, and much more. The nice thing about the Cardinal is its large-sized car-type doors. John was quick to jettison his walker, and years of living planeside as an instantaneously top gunner returned to his rightful seat as a pilot in command again. They flew for about forty-five minutes. John piloted the flight except for the landing, which Robert executed.

As you can see from the picture below, the grins were not forced. This is what it’s like to let our ten-year-old inner self come out to play.

Robert and John Haynes

John Haynes had an opportunity at 99 years old to restart for forty-five minutes, a flying habit that has brought him a lifetime of joy. It would have been much easier for him to listen to the many excuses I’m sure he thought of when Robert asked if he wanted to fly again. He chose YES! and that made all the difference in the world.

Toward Away Exercise

In my airplane there is a navigational instrument that is rapidly becoming obsolete thanks to GPS, called a VOR receiver. VOR stands for Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Radio Range. As a pilot navigates towards a ground-based radio transmitter, the instrument points in the direction to fly to the transmitter. Once you overfly the transmitter, the instrument shows the direction you are flying away from the signal. This is very similar a powerful exercise I use with my coaching clients based on the work of Dr. Russ Harris, MD.

The Toward Away exercise is pictured above and lists the actions one can choose to take that will keep them on a course that honors their values and leads them towards living the life they desire to experience. We also list the behaviors they may do that take them away from their desired, well-lived life. We always have a choice of how we want to act in any situation. If this interests you, please get the Second Edition of Russ Harris’ book, “The Happiness Trap.”

I still don’t understand why I stopped riding my Bike E. What I do know is how good I feel to be riding it again. I’m grateful for the chance for a restart.

How about you? What do you need to restart doing that is in alignment with your values so you can enjoy being on course for experiencing your well-lived life?

If you are not sure what you really value or want to think through your restart options, please click here to schedule some time with me to think and talk together.

Views: 101

What Do You Mean By Change?

“We need to make some changes around here,” stated the CEO confidently. LinkedIn probably will record a 79% increase in profile updates from this company’s employees immediately following the CEO’s comment. The problem is not so much with making necessary changes; the problem is using the vague word change to describe what you anticipate needing to make different. People don’t naturally resist change. We actually change all the time. We fight anything we perceive as potentially threatening to our well-being which is often the case with one’s reaction to hearing the word change unexpectedly. In the absence of facts, we tend to fill in our worst fears when we hear the “c” word and expect the worst while we hope for the best.

What Does the “C” Word Mean?

A big challenge with change is the vagueness of the word itself. Check out the definition and meaning of the word change at Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, and you will see what I mean. Change is an easy word to mistake its intended meaning from making something different to some coins in a pocket. I believe using the word change in an organizational setting can negatively trigger people’s insecurities, anxieties, curiosity, and frustrations. When people are feeling insecure, they are unable to think creatively, according to fMRI studies of how the brain responds to perceived potential threats. Defensive, anxious, and threatened people naturally resist the perceived threat and do not immediately accept and adapt to the threat. If you want to make a change project even more challenging to gain ultimate utility and adoption, then start by casually dropping change bombs to fire up the rumor mill and grapevine.

Be Specific About What You Really Mean By Change

A quick click on, and you will find forty synonyms for the word change. Imagine your natural first reaction to hearing Ms. CEO Boss say, “We are going to invest in some innovations,” or “We plan to upgrade our software with an enhancement to make our workflow more manageable.” Compare your gut feeling to those statements versus, “We are going to be making some changes around here.”

Draw Your Before And After Pictures Of Change

Be clear and specific about the size, scope, and intention of the difference (change) you intend to make, and you may make a positive difference in the rate of adoption of your intended outcome. The goal is to accurately paint a mental before and after picture of the difference you intend to make. Sometimes I challenge my coaching clients who are planning a significant change project to draw a before (current situation) picture and an after (post-project) picture to summarize the difference they are anticipating making in the organization. Then I ask them to most clearly and accurately describe the project based on the images. Is the project a renovation, innovation, conversion, reconstruction, resizing, modification, or something else specifically?

While we may talk about various competencies and disciplines such as change leadership or change management, we need to choose more accurate and less triggering words to reflect better the intention of the difference we are trying to make with and through others. When you change the way you talk about change, the possibilities for more successful changes also change for the better.

If you would like professional support to help you navigate a significant organizational transformation, then let’s have a conversation for a change.

Views: 81

Stop Trying to Fit In

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde

There is a real problem with trying to fit into a role or corporate culture that is misaligned with your values. Fitting in takes more willpower than you have available. You cannot tap into your natural motivation to find the role satisfying. You cannot force yourself to fit in for the long-term if you are fighting your nature.

We each are born genetically prewired with an individual preference for 16 basic human desires. This is according to the extensive research conducted by psychologist, Professor Steven Reiss, Ph.D. Our early cultural and family experiences also shape our values and needs. By the time we arrive at puberty, our values-guidance system is fairly well established and will not likely change dramatically as we age. We spend the rest of our lives attempting to satisfy our needs. We form habits to do what we find most satisfying. While we are motivated to pursue the temporary satisfaction of our needs, we can temporarily use self-control or willpower to delay our significant needs’ gratification temporarily.

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. studies willpower and wrote, “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It,” found that people who believe they have the most willpower are actually most likely to be surprised by setbacks and give up on their goals when they run into difficulty. McGonigal believes that willpower is actually three distinct mental powers, “I will,” “I won’t,” and “I want. These three powers enable us to make desired positive changes to ourselves. McGonigal writes that “I will” and “I won’t” power are the two equal sides of one’s self-control. She adds, “To say no when you need to say no, and yes when you need to say yes, you need a third power; the ability to remember what you really want.” This brings us back to Reiss’s motivational research and the “I want” power. The heart wants what the heart wants is a proven fact when it comes to understanding why we humans are motivated to do what we do and don’t do.

Where There’s a Want We Make a Way If We Have Enough Willpower

When you want one thing (to fit comfortably into your favorite jeans) and another part of you wants something else (lots of delicious chocolate), then you experience what McGonigal calls a willpower challenge. She writes, “Your present self wants one thing, but your future self would be better off if you did something else. When these two selves disagree, one version of us has to override the other. The part of you that wants to give in isn’t bad–it simply has a different point of view about what matters most.” Unfortunately, our brains are somewhat lazy and naturally prefer to do whatever we perceive to be the easiest thing to do in the present moment. HELLO MR. M&M! Sadly, we do not even recognize we are making a conscious choice most of the time.

A key finding of McGonigal’s willpower research is that willpower can be dramatically reduced by poor sleep, inadequate diet, sedentary lifestyle, and anything that keeps your brain and body stuck in a chronic stress response. McGonigal states, “Science also points us to a critical insight: Stress is the enemy of willpower.” Fighting one’s nature in a vain attempt to fit into a corporate culture or job role is perceived as triggering insecurity and frustration. Fitting in is a tremendous wasted drain on willpower and will leave you subject to impulsive temptations and immediate gratification of your strongest needs.

You Can’t Fool Yourself

There is a danger in a mindset of, “Fake it until you make it.” You know you are faking it. In your attempts to fake it, you use precious quantities of your limited willpower to do something you do not naturally want to do. This, too, raises your stress levels and insecurities, all leading to prematurely depleating your willpower. Now you are a prime candidate for burnout.

Align Who You Are and What You Want With What You Do

I use The Science of Motivation®, developed by Prof. Reiss, to help my clients increase their motivational intelligence and self-awareness. They come to understand and accept their unique values-guidance system to decide what they want to do or won’t do. We can evaluate all aspects of current or potential roles and determine the amount of motivational alignment. The more a role will allow someone to be authentically themselves, the more satisfying and engaging the role will likely be. Motivationally aligned roles allow you to live your working hours in the land of want to and is intrinsically satisfying. This leaves willpower available to delay gratification or choose better options to satisfy your needs. I typically begin working with my clients by completing a Reiss Motivation Profile®. Armed with this powerful and scientifically accurate data, we can evaluate and craft both working and personal environments where you can thrive.

Adapting to a work environment or culture that does not force you to struggle daily against your own values is much easier and less psychologically costly than trying to deny your nature and futilely try to fit in. Your nature has more want to power than your will to power. In the end, it’s not a matter of if your nature will win; it is only a question of when your true nature will win. Our heart’s desires are accurately called needs for a reason. They are not optional to our well-being.

If you would like to increase your self-awareness and motivational intelligence, then let’s set some time to have a conversation about motivation. It’s why we do what we do!

Views: 90

How to Create Excellent Performance

What Does Excellence Look Like?

“I don’t understand why three of my sales reps can be so much more successful than the rest of my team,” shared my coaching client, who is a senior sales manager at a large international firm.

“What do your rock stars do differently than your garage band players?” I asked.

“They get the job done, so I pretty much give them the autonomy to do whatever they think is best to make their numbers. Whatever they are doing is working.”

“What can you learn from the best practices of your best performers? What does excellence look like at each key phase of your ideal sales process?”

“I don’t know. My best three sellers all have very different personalities and approaches, but it seems to work for them.”

“Do your average salespeople know what they should be doing differently to make their sales goals? Is their less than stellar performance due to a lack of skill or will?”

“My guess is probably a bit of both.”

“Can I challenge you to observe and analyze what your top sellers do that makes their excellent performance so you can train the rest of your team also to be excellent?”

How To Find the Root Causes of Performance Issues

There are many tools to help determine the root causes of most performance issues. I often use a diagnostic framework like the one below to understand the current situation and desired outcomes.

You Have to Know Excellence When You See it

Each business outcome is dependent on two independent variables.

1. The initial inputs into the performance system.

2. The process to convert the initial inputs into the desired outputs.

We have much less ability to directly impact outputs. If we desire excellent outputs or outcomes, then we engineer excellence into our inputs and process.

In sales, the inputs are qualified sales leads. The sales process is all the subsequent steps to result in a profitable deal. One can research and observe what behaviors yield the desired results. These effective behaviors can then become one’s standard of excellence at each step of the sales process. Training and practicing these sales skills scales these excellent sales behaviors to all salespeople. Sales managers can then evaluate actual behaviors and provide coaching and accountability to the standards of excellence.

The test for an attainable standard of excellence is, can the desired excellent behavior be directly observed and measured? If it can be observed and measured, then it can likely be trained to others.

Create an Excellent Deal Wheel

Once excellent sales behaviors at each step in the process have been defined, managers can use a simple scoring wheel for evaluation, accountability, and coaching. See the sample below.

What’s Your Standard of Excellence?

Unless two observers can view and similarly score a behavior against a defined behavioral standard, there is no true standard of excellence. Training to excellent behaviors is not possible without first defining what excellent behavior is at each step or phase of the process. Accountability for performing to the desired outcome is reasonable. But when the performance outcome is less than expected, one must focus on the inputs and process to influence a more desirable outcome. An important question a manager should ask is, “What does excellent behavior look like at each step of our process?” Then, the manager should observe the process in-action to evaluate if it achieves the defined standards of excellence. Without clearly defined standards of excellence, the process is unscaleable.

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Collaboration Requires Character

I recently enjoyed a fascinating conversation with a psychologist colleague of mine, Ann Daniel. She has invested a great deal of her professional career advising a major health care network on how to live out the network’s behavioral expectations for effective working relationships. One key element which Ann teaches is the importance we all place on our individual sense of security.

Running on Cow Paths

According to Ann, when someone feels insecure or threatened emotionally or physically, they naturally revert to their early childhood learned behavioral habits to protect themselves and defend themselves. She calls these often used behaviors “cow paths,” which she describes as well-worn and often trodden strings of behavioral reactions. They are one’s go-to reaction to feeling fearfully threatened or when seeking to avoid pain in its many forms. The intriguing fact about our preferred “cow paths” is they don’t guarantee they lead us to where we want to go or the emotional outcome we want to experience. Instead, a cow path is just a familiar coping reaction or thought stream that may or may not be appropriate or effective in achieving one’s desired goals or outcomes. Unfortunately, we tend to race down our favorite cow paths towards what we think is safety often before our logical and rational responses can catch up.

As I reflected on my conversation with Ann, I began to think about the key character qualities identified in Gallup’s annual Follower’s Study. For example, Gallup lists the most important leadership traits followers look for in the leaders they willingly choose to follow: trust, stability, compassion, and hopefulness. But based on my conversation with Ann, I wondered if one must also consider the feeling of security as a requirement for inclusive leadership and effective collaboration? This led me to create a model to help visualize the concept.

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For people to form effective alliances and collaborate effectively, the group needs to encourage personal feelings of security. Individuals must recognize when they or someone else has slipped outside the security perimeter and is feeling insecure.

How to Avoid Scaring the Herd

My colleague Ann offered some behavioral indicators of someone’s sense of security. When we are feeling secure, we have an open mind and a growth mindset. We are willing to be curious, experiment, learn, and understand situations and other people. We can access our creativity, empathy, compassion, and respect for others and ourselves. We are free to be our authentic selves.

When we feel insecure, we will run down our cow paths of coping, self-soothing, defensive, and self-protective behaviors. Instead, we become judgmental, angry, confrontational, demanding, blaming, isolated, anxious, doubtful, discouraged, fearful, paralyzed, and even hopeless. We are guarded and are not willing to be authentic and vulnerable.

Our challenge is not to become an insecure runaway cow! On the contrary, creating and maintaining a sense of security is the safest space to build teams, collaborate, learn, form alliances and due leadership focused on change. So what can you do to keep the “cows” safe inside the security fence?

Want some help with your herd? Let’s talk.

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