"Doing well in the market place, doing good (or at least no harm,) engaging work and meaningful lives are not independent, but integrated challenges."Navigating Integrity – Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best
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Why You Want A “EEE” Rating

We are conditioned to wanting a Standard and Poor’s “AAA” or Moody’s “Aaa” rating, those agencies’ highest level of confidence that organizations can repay their debt. Those traditional ratings are lagging indicators, however, after-the-fact reflections of what organizations have or have not done to earn them. I encourage you to strive for “EEE” ratings, indicators that you are effective (achieve your goals,) engaging (a desirable place to work) and ethical (high integrity, and a good community citizen.) “EEE” ratings are leading indicators of overall organizational health and excellent predictors of traditional rating agencies’ scores. Logically, organizations that achieve their strategic and financial goals are better positioned to repay debt, there is adequate evidence that high engagement scores correlate with profitability, and we have certainly witnessed our share of organizations that failed on account of ethical shortcuts.

How does an organization earn a triple-E rating? The good news is that a handful of high-leverage practices will boost all three “Es:” organization effectiveness, worker engagement and ethical cultures. My research and experience working with dozens of organizations over three decades yielded four sets of practices that distinguish Triple-E organizations:

IDENTITY – Triple-E organizations know who they are, what they value and where they are going; they are clear about their “3 Ps:”

  • They know their purpose, and their purpose resonates with employees and customers.
  • They know what they stand for; in words and more importantly deeds, they are committed to their principles.
  • They are clear about their priorities; organization members understand their strategy and priority goals.

They are also keenly aware of their strengths and their vulnerabilities; they leverage their strengths and are less likely to fail on account of weaknesses that they’ve overlooked.

AUTHENTICITY – They are “true,” truth-telling and transparent.

  • They remain true to their purpose, principles and priorities; members and stakeholders don’t hear one thing but see different behavior.
  • They are well-attuned to marketplace and organizational realities, and are straight communicators.
  • Information is readily accessible by those who need it; financial statements are clear and easily understandable.

ALIGNMENT – There is tight fit of organizational systems and practices with purpose, principles and priorities, balanced by adaptability.

  • Structure, systems, people and practices reinforce the organization’s purpose, principles and priorities.
  • There is a general sense of unity and “fit;” organizational parts compose a coherent whole.
  • Unity is not confused with sameness, and alignment does not get in the way of constructive change and growth.

ACCOUNTABILITY – We can count on them to keep their promises, they measure what matters, and exercise responsible stewardship.

  • As big as brand promises and strategic objectives, or as small as returning calls when promised, we can count on them to honor their commitments.
  • They keep track of what counts; measures are useful and balanced, reflecting impact on profit, people and planet.
  • They are responsible stewards of resources near and far.

Organizations and leaders that exhibit these characteristics attract the best talent, have what it takes to succeed in the marketplace long-term, and are least likely to become ethically compromised. As you scan the list above you can likely make direct connections between each characteristic and how it drives effective, engaging or ethical cultures, or all three simultaneously. Consider IDENTITY’s “3 Ps,” for example for example. We will likely be more engaged affiliated with an organization and doing work with a meaningful purpose. If that organization clearly communicates its strategy and priority goals, there is a higher likelihood that we will execute the strategy, achieve priority goals and succeed in the marketplace. Ethical failures are often the result of organizations or leaders that are not clear about their principles. Failures in all four dimensions that comprise the triple-e framework drove our latest and great recession, and impacted all three “Es.”

Integrity Model color sans capabilities

Webster’s first definitions for “integrity” are about being whole, complete and unbroken – essentially what the triple-e framework and ratings add up to. Triple-e organizations and leaders are complete because they are attuned to all three dimensions of what Howard Gardner calls “Good Work” in his book by that same name; they pay attention to the whole picture. Think of a three-legged stool; organizations and leaders with a missing or weak “leg” are sure to fail sooner than later.

“EEEs” four dimensions constitute inTEgro’s Leadership and Organizational Integrity Model and the main themes in my book Navigating Integrity – Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best. Consistent with ACCOUNTABILITY’s “measuring what matters,” inTEgro offers the Organizational Integrity Survey – a 40-item survey to help organizations get a fix on where they are with each dimension, and the Leadership Integrity Survey – a 40-item self-survey for individual leaders to do the same. More information on both surveys can be found at http://www.integro-inc.com/services/survey_products.

I would like to hear how this perspective squares with your experience of what constitutes organizational and leadership excellence. The first three who respond will receive a signed copy of my book Navigating Integrity . . . as well as a code for taking the Leadership Integrity Survey free online.

Best wishes in your efforts to earn a EEE rating!


“Be really whole and all things will come to you.”



“Integrity is the cornerstone of free enterprise, and all leaders need a clear teachable point of view on it.”

Noel Tichy

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Environmental Stewardship and Organization Effectiveness

(July’s guest blog post is by Stephanie Klein, PhD. I met Stephanie at a gathering of Minnesota Professionals for Psychology Applied to Work (MPPAW,) and I was happy to learn about her interest in the connection of environmental stewardship to organization effectiveness. – Al Watts)

by Stephanie Klein, PhD

Organizations employ many tools for crafting cultures that are effective, engaging and ethical; the goal of this article is to highlight the role that environmental sustainability can play. You may even discover that your organization has already established a foundation ready to build upon.

Many of you are familiar with the triple bottom line framework: People, Planet, Profit. Most organizations recognize the importance of people Stewardship PPP tencate.com (employees, community) and profit (even non-profits pursue financial health and stability), and monitor those diligently. Progressive organizations have also embedded positive sustainability-related change into their processes, recognizing not only their role as community stewards, but how environmental sustainability positively impacts organizational effectiveness and employee engagement.

Efforts to improve organizational effectiveness are typically focused on reducing wasted resources and improving efficiency. Attention to environmental factors is a natural extension of efforts along those lines, expanding perspectives on ways to conserve resources. Without consideration of environmental factors, some efforts to improve efficiency and effectiveness might in the long run actually waste resources and have a negative or neutral impact. Consideration of environmental factors expands our field of view for ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness by reducing consumption of natural resources and/or generation of pollutants. Consideration of environmental impact also resonates with a growing sentiment among workers and consumers who want to associate with those kinds of organizations.

The intent here is not to encourage anyone to step outside the boundaries of their professional arena. Measuring parts-per-million of pollutants in the wastewater, or calculating specific energy efficiencies, remains squarely in the domain of experts. Yet those of us advising organizations or working within organizations, especially if we play a role in strategic decision-making, are very well-positioned to guide sustainability-related change.

We may be designing programs ourselves, providing guidance, or have decision-making authority or influence. In all of these cases, the intent is typically to design programs or initiatives to achieve certain goals. And if the program is well-designed, we typically define those desired outcomes, and ideally plan to gather metrics for determining the extent that outcomes have been achieved. This article is about expanding our definition of “outcomes”to explicitly consider relevant environmental sustainability outcomes. Here are two examples:

Example One:
An organization initiated video-based interviewing for the second round of candidate interviews, typically the top 10 remaining after an initial phone conversation. The purpose of this shift in the recruiting process was two-fold: to improve recruiting process efficiencies and to reduce costs; both objectives were achieved. First, process efficiencies were realized because the recruiter Sustainability jembatantiga.comno longer needed to coordinate multiple interviewers being onsite on the same day as a candidate visit, and top candidates were less likely to be lost due to excessive delays in scheduling. Second, cost savings were significant; the company now funds travel for only the final two or three candidates to interview onsite. Though unanticipated, environmental impacts were also favorable, including a 70% reduction in the number of airline and car trips per open position, with a corresponding reduction in fuel consumed and CO2 emissions produced. The organization implemented the new interview approach to make the recruiting process more efficient and less costly, but this does not mean that it should deny itself credit for the resulting reduction in its carbon footprint.

Example Two:
An organization redesigned its inventory management process to reduce costs related to waste (damaged and expired goods) and shipping (expensive last-minute delivery to deal with unexpected shortages). The process redesign succeeded by significantly reducing the number of discarded items and overnight orders, and reducing costs as intended. As in Example One, there were also positive environmental impacts. First, fewer discarded goods become trash, and raw materials and energy required to create replacements for the wasted goods are not required. Second, land transportation (train and truck) has less negative environmental impact than air transport, which is needed for overnight orders.

Estimates of environmental impact for initiatives like the examples above can be calculated using online tools such as https://www.carbonfund.org/business-calculator.

There are likely any number of similar opportunities in your own organization for becoming even better stewards while improving organizational efficiency and effectiveness. The proposal here is not to  focus on environmentalStewardship eco-opbiz.com sustainability to the exclusion of other decision criteria, or even to give it priority against other strategic and logistical factors. Rather, you are encouraged to simply keep sustainability-related outcomes on the list of considerations when making decisions about which proposed process improvements or strategic initiatives to prioritize for investment, and to measure environmental impacts of decisions.

Over time, incremental changes in an organization’s environmental impact in aggregate will yield significant, measurable reductions in an organization’s carbon footprint. Meanwhile, organizations that focus on the environmental impact of their decisions and actions will embed stewardship as an enduring value of their culture, while earning the loyalty of customers and employees who increasingly seek it.

(Stephanie Klein, PhD, is an industrial-organizational psychologist specializing in organizational effectiveness and making strategy happen. Her recent publications include Green Organizations: Driving Change with I-O Psychology (available on Amazon, or use code IRK71 for a 20% discount on the publisher’s website), and “Organizational Responsibility,” an article in the Management topic of Oxford Bibliographies Online. Stephanie can be contacted via LinkedIn  or email, srklein42(at)hotmail(dot)com


The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

George Burns

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Are Your Values Scalable?

Recently a friend working in a rapidly-growing Twin Cities based company lamented how much had changed in his organization the last few years: “It just isn’t the same place. . . People don’t feel as loyal or energized. . . We’re not feeling the same sense of purpose. . .” When I asked him how long things had seemed that way (I felt like a doctor evaluating symptoms,) the time coincided with the company’s IPO a few years earlier. His prognosis (and his organization’s) was becoming clearer; they were likely both victims of a condition that is unfortunately too common among rapidly growing organizations, and that is aggravated by going public. Too often, successful Grinch heart Dr. Karin Smithsonrapidly growing companies concern themselves mainly with scalability of their business models, giving little consideration to scalability of their core purpose and values. Images of “the Grinch who stole Christmas” come to mind: a too-big body with a too-small heart. Or, going back to our medical analogy, a heart that is insufficiently developed and too immature to support a growing body.

Whatever the cause, when an organization loses focus on its sense of purpose and principles that made it distinctive and special in the first place, trouble is usually around the corner. The usual scenario is that excitement about excellent and novel products or services, passion for customers, dedication to communities served or genuine values of founding leaders get usurped by strictly utilitarian and financial considerations. Do not get me wrong; scalability of business models and profit (for corporations) or margin (for public or non-profit entities) is essential, just as the air that we breath is essential for survival. We get into trouble, however, when those become the sole, or even primary considerations. Unless dedication to our core purpose and values grows commensurately with profit or margin considerations, profit overcomes purpose and margin overtakes mission.

In 2007, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schulz lamented the loss of what had made Starbucks special in the course of its relentless international growth march. Product excellence, customer service and intimate coffee drinking experiences had been unintentionally sacrificed in exchange for growth and profitability targets to meet analysts’ and stockholders’ expectations. Before long neither the Starbucks coffee experience or shareholder returns were meeting expectations; Starbucks’ popularity and profitability rebounded only after a disciplined renewal of its traditional values and commitment to making its coffee experience special again. Krispy Kreme experienced a similar reversal of fortune when the pace of its expansion outgrew what had made its fresh doughnut experience exceptional since 1937. Three years after its IPO in 2000, Krispy Kreme’s stock rose 840%; about that same time I began noticing stale-looking packaged Krispy Kreme doughnuts on the end racks at big-box retailers; not long after that its stock price began a steep descent, recovering some only after attending to the scars of its rapid growth trajectory.

Goldman Sachs partners voted to go public in 1998, over the objections of some partners who considered selling to be a violation of a 129-year “sacred trust.” Throughout its history the Goldman Sachs culture had been characterized by always putting clients’ best interests first, smart yet conservative investing that steadily grew wealth, and careful selection and Goldman Sachs Smith bookgrooming of partners who served as guardians of the firm’s culture. Many believe that Goldman Sach’s contribution to Wall Street’s 2008 melt-down can be traced to the erosion of its traditional values, overtaken eventually by a culture devoted to maximization of returns for shareholders over clients’ best interests. Greg Smith was a senior Goldman Sachs manager when he wrote Why I Quit Goldman Sachs in 2012 and described the deleterious effect of Goldman’s eroded culture on customers and employees.

It is a challenge for any significant organization, especially if publicly held, to grow in the spirit of its core purpose, principles and what made it distinctive originally. Minnesota-based Medtronic has rightfully prided itself over the years as a mission-driven, values based corporation; no doubt part of its deliberation evaluating its recent Covidien acquisition and movement of operations to Dublin was how that squared with its commitment to corporate citizenship. Educational institutions of all stripes are finding it difficult to grow by the formulas that originally earned their academic distinction. A recent editorial in the Star Tribune by an early Metropolitan State University alum encouraged the University to grow by embracing its original values and history of “breaking the rules” to advance learning.

So how do we grow without losing what makes us great?

  • First be clear about what makes you special – commitment to a cause or vital purpose, foundational principles, valued cultural norms and other distinctive characteristics. Determine the non-negotiables – those aspects of who you are and how you operate that should not change.
  • Imbed those distinctive characteristics into your culture, systems and practices. Tell stories that reinforce what makes you special, hire and promote to reinforce those distinctive qualities, and make sure that what gets measured and rewarded reinforces your desired “DNA.” In their excellent book Scaling Up Excellence*, authors Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao describe how those best at scaling up cultivate a strong organizational “mindset.” One such tool employed by Facebook is their “boot camp,” where new hires are thoroughly oriented to what is desirable and what is undesirable.
  • Use what makes you special as a “litmus” test for potential avenues of growth. For example, will an acquisition or merger provide opportunities to extend your purpose and desired culture or endanger them? Don’t overestimate your ability to scale up your values and desired culture while plotting overly optimistic growth trajectories. Michael Depatie, CEO of highly successful Kimpton Hotels, is wary of how the “Kimpton magic” would translate to new markets. Speaking of his reluctance to expand more quickly or into overseas markets, he says “I’ve got a golden goose here, but it can lay only so many eggs so quickly.”
  • Don’t confuse preservation of your truly distinctive qualities that add value with doing everything the same. Growth requires doing some things differently and no longer doing some things altogether. As the authors of Scaling Up Excellence put it: “Scaling requires both addition and subtraction.” They liken unnecessary rules, roles and rituals to barnacles on the bottom of a ship that only impede progress.
  • Stay connected. Increasing complexity, multiple sites and expanding headcount create additional challenges for keeping the troops engaged and on the same page. All-employee meetings lose their effect when we swell from fifty to five hundred employees, but thatFacebook 1 pixabay.com only makes the need for quality communication even greater. “Leading by walking around,” live and virtual “town hall” meetings, conference calls, interactive intranet sites and additional tools for staying connected grow in importance when scaling up. As numbers become too great for one all-hands meeting with a founder or CEO, department, work unit and team meetings can serve well – assuming that meeting leaders represent the desired culture well and possess the required communication capability.
  • Don’t mistake getting bigger with getting better. Some organizations may be able to grow quality without growing quantity; boutique retail and professional services firms are examples. Be clear about your vision and “end game.” Can you accomplish what you desire and defend against competitors by staying local, for example? Are you building an organization that can be passed on to your next generation, is your goal to sell it, or will you go public?

It is possible to scale up our organization with losing its soul, but not easy. I hope that these guidelines are useful helping you plan for growth.

* Sutton, Robert I. and Rao, Hayagreeva. Scaling Up For Excellence – Getting To More Without Settling For Less; Crown Publishing Group, New York, NY. 2014



The fatal metaphor of progress, which means leaving things behind us, has utterly obscured the idea of real growth, which means leaving things inside us.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Photo credits: Google Images – Dr. Karin Smithson, theurbanpost.com, pixabay.com

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Is Your Top Team A Top Team?

Likely nowhere in an organization is teamwork more important than at the top. Executive leadership teams can be a potent force charting a sustainable competitive course, communicating direction, crafting winning cultures, and aligning their organizations around strategic priorities. Yet too few executive teams operate at the top of their game; here are some guidelines for how they can:

  • Do top team members own a common purpose that contributes distinct value?

Each member of an executive team already plays a significant leadership role heading a business unit or function with its own distinct purpose and set of goals. Executive team members share a vital collective responsibility, however, that goes beyond their individual functional leadership roles. It is worthwhile for executive teams to articulate their distinct shared purpose  and the collective value they contribute that no other entity can. Here is how one executive team client defined its unique value-added role:

“Leverage our collective perspectives and resources to serve (name of organization) by anticipating challenges and opportunities, crafting strategic direction and speaking with one voice to engage internal and external stakeholders.”

As with most efforts to define collective purpose, the process is almost more important than the product; it answers the all-important “why are we here?” question and serves as an important team development experience in its own right.

  • What goals are executive team members mutually accountable for? Along with a common purpose or mission, mutual goals are the teamwork-final-piecefoundation for any team, including executive teams; no goals, no team. For a group of senior executives to function as a true team, there must be shared goals that require collaboration and collective contributions. Too often as one experienced senior leader shared, a crisis becomes the executive team’s only shared goal.

Common goals can be a challenge for senior teams, composed of strong leaders who all have their own challenging functional unit goals. In some cases those sets of goals can conflict; challenging individual goals combined with rich incentives to achieve them they can take precedence over collaborating on mutual goals.

Common c-suite goals often reflect the most important dimensions and operations of an organization that do not fall neatly into any particular function. Beyond traditional measures like revenue growth, profitability and share price for publicly held corporations, examples include health of the organization’s culture, customer service, ethics and reputation. Of course to compete fairly for executive teams members’ attention alongside their individual functional objectives, compensation and bonuses need to be aligned with shared goals.

  • Have executive team members articulated mutual expectations or norms for working together, and do they hold each other accountable Teamwork google myspeedoftrust.comfor those? Any team’s members can have different styles and expectations for working together; that is especially the case when teams are composed of members from different organizations and cultures. Conversation early in the game and periodic check-ins about meeting formats, communication preferences, “rules of the road” and other mutual expectations saves time later and lays a foundation for greater trust.

Ideally mutual expectations include authentic communication and speaking with one voice. Authentic communication assures the kind of respectful disagreement and dialog required for making the best decisions. When that has been the case, executive team members need to hold themselves accountable for speaking with one voice about decisions and direction. One of the biggest detractors from healthy cultures and execution is lack of unified communication; examples include publicly second-guessing executive team decisions that have already been made or unintentional misrepresentation of decisions or direction.

Decision-making protocols are also important to clarify. When and how will voting or consensus be used? If one person decides in the end, will there be circumstances when that isn’t the executive team leader or CEO? Which decisions are an executive team’s or its leader’s call, and which are a board’s?

When top teams need a “tune up,” here are some suggestions:

  • Basic navigation principles apply: before knowing where to go, senior teams need to know where they are. In that regard, I conduct interviews with all senior team members before team development engagements; I summarize responses anonymously to reflect perceived team strengths, limitations, opportunities and dynamics. I usually supplement that with a commercial senior team survey or one that I design.
  • There may not be an “I” in team, but there is a “me.” Senior teams are composed of individuals; if we want strong teams we need to invest in development of team members, especially its leader. A 2008 Hay study of executive teams revealed that an executive team leader’s leadership style accounts for 70% of the team’s climate; further, that climate accounts for 30% of the variance in executive team contributions. Senior team development is best accompanied or preceded by team member coaching, including survey-feedback.
  • The best senior team development is in the context of their real work, including strategic planning, critical decisions to make, conflicts about direction or dysfunctions to address. Senior teams are often more inclined to invest in team development with the prospect of simultaneously achieving other critical tasks.
  • My senior team work always ends with commitments – collective and individual commitments about what will be done, how team members will work together and individual roles. Commitments are shared, and agreements made about measuring progress and how team members will be mutually accountable for following through. A time should be set for a formal facilitated review by the team of progress on goals and commitments.


The health and effectiveness of top teams are too important to leave to chance; I hope that these are useful guidelines for assuring that your top team is at the top of its game. Teamwork crew clov.com

Yet with a culture of individual accountability and self-reliance pervading executive suites, few senior executive groups ever function as real teams.

                     Jon R. Katzenbach, Teams at the Top


“You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

                             Babe Ruth

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Back To School!

After a few decades, Bowling Green State University recently readmitted me for completion of my master’s degree in Organization Development; the degree will be official this August. (No excuses, but somehow I never got around to finishing my thesis long ago after two job changes, a divorce, re-marriage, kids and a few moves.) Returning to grad school after many years in the profession has been a rewarding experience, offering more learning opportunities than reflected in BGSU’s course catalog; let me share a few:

Step into the unknown. Whatever the experience, if we haven’t done it before or it’s a little unnerving, give it a go. Visiting a foreign country, learning a new language, trying a new sport or merely altering our routines stretches our minds and capabilities. The mere act of stretching our minds and capabilities with one endeavor increases our ability to do so with others.

Stay fresh. It’s easier, especially at a certain stage in one’s career, to rely on what we’ve learned to that point and what’s worked for us before. When asked for parting words of advice, one of our guest speakers at the last residency, a senior internal OD practitioner, said: “Don’t count on what worked last time working next time;” how true. Even if we aren’t changing, the world around us is. As retired U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki put it: “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”

Age and experience cut both ways. How could everyone attending BGSU now be so much younger than when I first attended? Of course Education Michelangelo quote flickr Anne Davis they are not; after a while I guess our minds just play tricks on us. I’d like to think that after a few years in this business I can offer lessons learned and some wisdom. At the same time, if I am not open to the different perspectives and skill sets that another generation and those in different career stages offer, I’ll miss the boat. I am regularly impressed by class project team mates who see things with new eyes, introduce fresh thinking or methods and suggest better approaches than I would think of on my own.

Humility helps. Age and experience can be a disadvantage if accompanied by the assumption that we should know it all by now, or that others will think that we should. Giving ourselves permission to say “I don’t know,” “I forgot,” “That’s new for me; thank you,” or “I don’t understand” is genuine and opens the door to learning; it will contribute rather than distract from our credibility.

Make friends with technology. I thought I was getting pretty good using technology for work; restarting at BGSU was an awakening. BGSU’s Master’s in Organization Development is a blended program, with two full weekend residencies per class and the balance online. That required new software, applications and climbing a steep learning curve. I’m grateful that it all seems second nature for class teammates and for their patience as I get up to speed. I am not only completing my Master’s in OD, but receiving a secondary education in the technology that increasingly affects all of our work.

Sometimes it’s not just what we sign up to learn, but what we need to learn to get there that pays dividends. Just as becoming a proficient sailor required learning about weather, navigation and mechanical repairs, those secondary learning opportunities yield additional benefits.

Be open and be curious. It’s true that “when the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Much of that readiness involves the ability to set Education flickr Giulia Forsythaside, at least for a time, what we thought to be true before. Any new learning is often accompanied by some unlearning, or at least understanding that an answer can be “both / and” instead of “either / or.” I’ve been aware a few times upon returning to BGSU that what I thought to be true, or the way I was accustomed to thinking about things, got in the way of understanding new concepts or learning new methods.

It’s an adventure! I always liked the definition that I heard for “adventure: An experience where outcomes are uncertain but the possibility of great rewards exists.” Beyond the outcome of receiving my graduate degree, I am already seeing new possibilities and new opportunities that I couldn’t have foreseen unless willing to venture some into the unknown. Any worthwhile adventure involves some element of risk and unknowns; those are downpayments. And there are more investments required: money, time, opportunity costs and inconvenience to name a few. That brings to mind another truism: “An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly understood; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly understood.” “No pain, no gain” as they say.

I hope that these observations are useful for you on your own learning journey, Education Skinner quotewhether or not that involves formal education. What form our learning journey takes is likely not as important as our mindset on the journey.

Let me close with two book recommendations, both of which you can find on the inTEgro’s recommended reading site: “Life Reimagined” by Richard Leider, and “Stepping Stones To Success” by Steve Cady. Both of them are inspirational and practical guides for expanding our horizons and charting new courses, whatever forms they take.


The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.

Carl Rogers

An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.

Anatole France

(Picture credits: Bowling Green State University, flickr – Anne Davis, Giulia Forsyth and waldec)

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First Impressions

How do first impressions influence you? For the last few weeks I’ve been even more sensitive than usual to the their impact, probably because of the wide variation in quality that I experienced. Here are a few recent examples:

We were fortunate to time a stay at our Florida retreat during Minnesota’s last cruel winter onslaught. This trip we wanted to spruce up the yard, so knowing little about landscaping in tropical climates we started with a visit to the most established operation in town. When we finally found an employee, she seemed peeved that we interrupted her plant-watering project. She informed us that only the owner could answer our questions, took our phone number and told us that the owner would call us. Since we were already First impression homebusiness.co.uk.comthere, we wandered the yard, but got confused by the disorganization and poor labeling of stock. We drove a half-mile to their competitor, Gulf View Landscaping, and were completely drawn in by a very knowledgeable, friendly and service-oriented employee. We returned the next day with sketches of our yard, and she patiently guided us through the process of finding the right trees and shrubs.

Several days later, a recurring back problem flared up and I hoped to find a local orthopedic or health service for relief. The operator at the first clinic that I called, again, sounded like I was an interruption in her day. In no uncertain terms she made it clear that there was no way they could possibly help me; end of conversation. As it turned out, the second resource that I called also couldn’t help, but the operator sounded genuinely concerned; she suggested several alternatives and offered their phone numbers. If or when I am in need of health services in that part of Florida again, which provider do you think I will call?

Despite horror stories about the air carrier we used getting to Florida, we had a positive experience that trip. On other occasions, however, we hadn’t; the carrier’s on-time and service quality is inconsistent, and not surprisingly, Zagat rates it among the ten worst airlines in the world. The day after my return from Florida I flew Sun Country to Michigan; as usual whenever I fly Sun Country, greetings were positive, and the flight was on time, friendly and comfortable. I have only positive memories of Sun Country experiences, and would choose it for all flights if that was an option. (Truth in disclosure: a family member is a Sun Country flight attendant.)

I’ve walked away from many service establishments never to return, and you likely have too on account of poor initial treatment or impressions; there are usually just too many alternatives. Sometimes a first impression is the last impression.

Here is my advice on ways to convert first impressions into competitive advantage:

  • Recognize its importance; as Will Rogers put it: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
  • Recognize the value of those who deliver first impressions, many of whom are the “unsung heroes” of our businesses: receptionists, operators, clerks, restaurant servers, etc. Accord them the status and credit they deserve, and hire and pay them accordingly.
  • Do some “managing by walking around.” When greeted or treated unprofessionally I’ve often wondered if owners or managers are even aware of their missed opportunities to cash in on positive first impressions. Make sure that you are, and take appropriate action.
  • Measure what matters. In addition to observation by walking around, invest in reliable measures of customer perceptions. Make sure that those who play a role creating first impressions know the scores and take responsibility for keeping them high.
  • Analyze reasons for unsatisfactory first impressions, and take appropriate corrective action. Bob Mager’s rubric for analyzing performance problems comes to mind: people don’t know what performance is required (tell them,) they don’t know how (train them,) they don’t want to (improve motivation,) or there are barriers of some kind (remove the barriers.) (Mager, Robert F. and Pipe, Peter. Analyzing Performance Problems – Or, You Really Oughta Wanna; The Center For Effective Performance, 1997)
  • Align staff, structure and systems (including hiring, performance management, training, measures and especially compensation) with your intentions. As UptonFirst impression adriansnood.com Sinclair said: “It’s hard to get others to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.” No matter what nice customer-centric verbiage is posted, for example, if a service employee’s recognition and pay are not connected to it or maybe even incent the opposite, first impressions will suffer.

Oh, by the way: the owner of the first landscape company that we visited did call us back – a week after we purchased and planted our new trees and shrubs from its competitor.

Hats off to all our service providers, especially our “first providers!” Most workers want to know that they make a difference. Let’s remind them and remind ourselves just what a big difference they make.



“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

                                                                                    Will Rogers

“A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as a single deed.”

                                                                                    Henrik Ibsen

Photo credits: homebusiness.uk.com and Anton Diaz / Flickr

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    Thanks Al for emphasizing the importance of recognizing the value of the “unsung heroes” as you call them. We ...
Alignment And All That Jazz

Earlier this month our church sponsored its annual “Jazz Sunday,” and I thought about the jazz-like nature of excellent leaders and organizations. I am always struck by the Jazz Tenbensel Barbary Coast bandcamaraderie, communication and creativity of jazz performances. Ensemble members readily share the lead and support one another; their flexibility and cross-training would be the envy of most teams. Our Sunday’s clarinetist and bass players switched places without missing a beat; the trombonist seemed equally at home with his trombone, coronet or any kind of trumpet. (And on other occasions the cello and more!) Communication was seamless; when to start, when to shift and when to end were communicated by exchange of glances and subtle hand signals. Members of the jazz ensemble had played together a number of years, clearly enjoyed making music together and engaged their audience.

Mostly for me, jazz reflects the best kind of alignment in organizations – a combination of structure and discipline coupled with improvisation. There is always some underlying melody, arrangement or beat that is the foundation for jazz. Its distinctiveness, unique Yin Yang Stabilitasvalue and “magic,” however, stem from improvisation; no performance is the same. Playing an arrangement note-by-note might sound OK, but wouldn’t be jazz; of course total improv, or everyone “doing his thing,” would also not be jazz, but more like noise. The foundation, or underlying arrangement, and improvisation must both be present for jazz. Likewise, the best kind of alignment in organizations is a combination of foundational principles and goals coupled with flexibility and spontaneity. Jim Collins reinforced this point in his and Jerry Porras’ book Built To Last (Harper Business, 1994.) Collins’ research demonstrated that companies with the combination of a strong core ideology (mission and core values) with adaptive mechanisms generated returns that were six times those of control companies. Saint Benedict was thirteen hundred years ahead of Collins when he posited that the strongest faith communities were a combination of the Latin stabilitas (what should not change) and conversatio (changeable, or open to conversation.)

The underlying arrangement of alignment’s “jazz” is why everyone knows, or should know, they are there – to achieve the organization’s mission and priority goals; its “beat” are the organization’s core values or principles. There should be no compromise on those scores. In today’s “VUCA” world (volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous,) how priority goals are achieved is where improvisation and diversity come in. As long as everyone agrees on their organization’s “3 Ps” – purpose, priorities and principles, results will be superior when performers can improvise. Performers can adapt as circumstances warrant and be creative meeting customer needs to achieve best possible outcomes. As the American journalist and women’s rights advocate Margaret Fuller put it: “Harmony exists in difference no less than in likeness, if only the same key note governs both parts.” Differences – in perspective, approach and method, are welcome so long as “the same key notes” – an organization’s purpose, principles and priorities are internalized.

To “jazz up” your organization and create this kind of alignment, pay attention to both your “key notes,” or foundation, and improvisation.

Here is how to make sure everyone is playing the same “key notes:”

  • Craft a meaningful mission, or purpose statement, for your organization – why all of you are there. Be sure that it resonates with target customers, reflects your core capabilities and mirrors your brand.
  • Articulate your organization’s core values – the basic principles that signal what behavior is most valued and that organization members can use as guides for best courses of action.
  • Make sure that everyone knows your organization’s strategic and operational priorities (research shows that about 60% don’t,) and review goals that are set up and down the organization to assure alignment with those priorities.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. From my experience, the maxim that we need to communicate something at least seven times in seven different ways for it to be understood is true. That applies to our “3 Ps:” purpose, principles and priorities.
  • Examine your structure, systems and processes to assure that they reinforce your “3 Ps.” Pay particular attention to hiring, compensation, recognition, performance management and measurement practices. As Upton Sinclair said: “It’s hard to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it.”

To nurture improvisation:jazz 3 Duajo Allaho

  • Give people freedom to do their jobs. Manage outcomes, not methods; don’t micromanage.
  • Encourage experimentation and “play.” 3M and Google are both known for encouraging staff to devote some of their paid time pursuing whatever research project interests them.
  • Give people chances to shine and to use their best strengths. Surveys consistently demonstrate that a major driver of engagement is having regular opportunities to do what we do best.
  • Invest in education, training and development. Workers exposed to new thinking, updated methods and a wider world-view are better positioned for adapting to new and changing realities.
  • Embrace diversity – of background, perspectives and points of view. Give people the tools for creating the “harmony that exists in differences,” including negotiation, consensus-building and dialog.
  • Don’t over-specialize. Too much specialization restricts workforce flexibility and creates barriers that hinder collaboration.
  • Get more comfortable with ambiguity. There is a time and place for everything, including answers. Very little, and less each day, is black and white; sometimes it’s better to live with a question than force an answer.
  • Create a sense of community that is caring, supportive and collegial. Drive out fear and gamesmanship.

inTEgro makes a distinction between “alignment” the noun and “aligning” the verb, and we need both.  We need alignment the noun – structure and discipline, to make sure that all are following the same key notes. We need aligning the verb, or improvisation, to nurture creativity and adaptability. We need to both “walk the talk” and “dance the dance.” That’s jazz.

Here are a few more resources for jazzing up your culture:

  • Michael Gold’s “Jazz Impact” – Michael is an accomplished jazz musician who with his traveling jazz ensemble workshop helps organizations and leaders tap the power of jazz. Visit his web site at http://www.jazz-impact.com/
  • “Leadership and All That Jazz” – An early inTEgro newsletter at http://tinyurl.com/l9ue4s2
  • Max DePree’s Leadership Jazz (Currency / Doubleday, 1992) – Peter Drucker called this classic by Herman Miller’s founder “wisdom in action.”


“Jazz is restless. It won’t stay put and never will.”

(trombonist J. J. Johnson, 1988)


“The great jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus once said, ‘You can’t improvise on nothing, man.’ Yes- a double negative- and he meant it. When we improvise together it is always about something.”

(Michael Gold, Jazz Impact)


(Photo credits: flickr-allthatimpossibleblue, Barbary Coast Dixieland Band, flickr-Duajo Allaho)

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Culture – Your Best Investment

I am struck by how often two “C” words appear in the press: “compliance” and “crisis,” as in crisis management or crisis communication. Corporations, particularly publicly held financial services organizations, are spending billions of dollars just assuring compliance with ever-increasing regulatory requirements; the average annual compliance and ethics budget of U.S. insurance companies alone in 2012 was nearly $12 million.  And they spend many billions more in fines and legal fees when found not in compliance; in 2013, J. P. Morgan alone settled with U.S. authorities for $13 billion on account of shady investment practices. Institutions of all kinds including government, media, sports and religious organizations are increasingly utilizing internal or external public relations and communication specialists to apologize for transgressions or failures and attempt rebuilding public trust. There is an alternative.

Another “C word” that deserves more of organizations’ attention is “culture.” If organizations and their leaders invested in culture earlier and more robustly, most Culture "C" flickr chrisinplymouthnon-compliance and crisis communication expenses could be eliminated. We’ve heard that “culture eats strategy;” it also eats compliance and crisis communication. Compliance is mainly about laws, rules, risk management and what not to do; it is externally imposed, usually in response to earlier harmful practices that we may not even have been party to. Are you more likely to do something when forced to, or when you want to, know it is the right thing to do and get reinforced for it?  My guess is that you responded the latter; that is an “inside out,” natural motivation for doing the right thing vs. an externally imposed, controlling attempt to cause the same behavior. Culture is the ethos of an organization that influences its members to behave the way they do – for better or worse. The “better or worse” is not just about ethics, but whether an organization attracts and retains the customers and members it desires and achieves its goals.

Organizational culture is real; you have one whether you are conscious of it or not. And we have a choice: we can either shape it as we wish it to be toward desired ends, or leave it to chance; I recommend the former. Here are four dimensions that contribute to what we call “triple-e cultures” – cultures that are effective, ethical and engaging:

IDENTITY – In “triple-e cultures,” purpose, principles and priorities are clear. As Alexander Hamilton put it, “if we don’t know what we stand for, we will fall for anything.” When an organization does not clearly communicate its principles and what they mean, there is too much room for interpretation; it is likely that many interpretations will be different than our expectations.

AUTHENTICITY – Truth-telling is expected and reinforced in triple-e cultures. “Inconvenient truths,” whether internal bad news or scary observations about market developments, see the light of day early enough for less costly course corrections. Most importantly, authentic cultures and leaders are true to their stated purpose and principles. Banks and investment firms that contributed most to our great recession were those that strayed furthest from their fiduciary purpose and stated principles of doing what is best for their customers. As a result, survivors in the industry are now saddled with voluminous and complex regulations that will significantly add to their costs of doing business.

ALIGNMENT – Make sure that systems and practices like hiring, talent management, measures, recognition, compensation and training all send the same signals and reinforce stated purpose, principles and priorities. When choosing to believe what we read and hear versus what we see, we choose what we see; actions do speak louder than words. For example, if we hear that “safety first” is an inviolate principle, but data collection, bonuses or promotions clearly send the message that efficiency and cost reduction count more, that is what we will believe. Before Wachovia failed at the outset of our recession, loan officers who routinely approved bad mortgages but exceeded targets were awarded trips to the Bahamas; loan officers who diligently denied bad loans were fired. How seriously do you think employees who valued their jobs took Wachovia espoused values like “integrity” or “quality?”

ACCOUNTABILITY – I am surprised at the negative connotations that “accountability” carries for some. I suspect that is the kind of externally imposed accountability that organizations now saddled with onerous and costly compliance requirements will experience. In triple-e cultures, purpose, principles and priorities are sufficiently ingrained that accountability is a more natural state of affairs; there is mutual responsibility for achieving goals that all are committed to in ways that they are committed to achieving them. Accountable cultures imbue members with a sense of stewardship, not just for the organization’s tangible resources, but for the near and far impacts of how it operates.

These four dimensions comprise inTEgro’s Organizational Integrity Model – “integrity” as in “whole,” “complete” and “undivided” according to Webster. Integrious, or “triple-e,” integrious definitioncultures assure that organizations are in fact what they aspire to be and live up to their promise. They focus organizational energy and resources on all of what matters, not just short-term effectiveness and results, but on creation of engaging work places and ethical behavior. Doing well in the market place, doing good (or at least no harm) and engaging work are not independent, but integrated challenges; most of what drives ethical cultures also accounts for engaging work places and commercial success. A 2010 CEB study of 34 publicly traded companies revealed that companies which made culture a strategic priority achieved a 16 percent higher average total shareholder return than those which did not.

We can invest in healthy, strong cultures early and often, or pay the price later (and much more) for compliance and crisis management; the choice is ours.

Culture vs. Crisis pic 2

Accountability calls for measuring what matters. Culture matters, and it pays dividends to occasionally “take its temperature.” To learn more about inTEgro’s Organizational Integrity Survey and participate in a validation study, please visit: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/OrgIntegrity


“Moving forward, it appears that the new metric of corporate leadership will be closer to this: the extent to which executives create organizations that are economically, ethically, and socially sustainable.

Instead of wasting millions of dollars on ethics courses designed to exhort employees to be good, it would be far more effective to create corporate cultures in which people are rewarded for doing good things.”

                        James O’Toole and Warren Bennis (Harvard Business Review, 2009)

Photo credits: flickr – timtak (banner) and chrisinplymouth

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  • Al Watts
    Thanks for sharing this, Carolien. I wonder how they measured "happiness," and what its relationship is to "engagement." Research has ...
  • Carolien Moors
    No coincidence, I just stumbled upon a white paper The Science Of Happiness which is all about culture: - You ...
How About A “Selfie?”

So, “Selfie” is Oxford Dictionaries’ “word of the year!” “Selfies,” of course, are those snapshots that we see practically everyone taking of themselves with smart phones and posting on social media. Oxford explains how “selfie” earned its distinction because of its impact on society and its ubiquity. (Use of the term has increased 17,000% since last year!)

There is another kind of “selfie” that would be great to see come anywhere near the popularity of all the self-photos. It is a different sort of self snapshot that heeds the OracleDElphi Know thyself inscriptions of Delphi’s advice thousands of years ago: “Know thyself.” Too few of us meet the first requirement for emotional intelligence popularized by Daniel Goleman: self-awareness. It’s unsettling to encounter managers, team members, drivers, neighbors, associates and others in everyday life who act in ways that make it clear they are blind to the impact of their boorish behavior. And how unsettling especially, wishing that we’d known sooner, to discover for the first time how we’ve been blind to the way we come across.

As Goleman reminds us, self-awareness must come before the self-management that exhibits emotional intelligence, and emotional intelligence pays. How might the troubles and pain caused by so many in the news for all the wrong reasons been avoided if only they were more aware of their shadow sides and better able to control them? How might things have been different if investment bankers that contributed to our latest recession knew more about what drove them to make imprudent decisions? How many more valuable employees could be retained if only their supervisors or senior managers were more aware of their propensities for micromanagement, bullying or capricious behavior?

Self-awareness also plays a vital role accurately assessing reality. Unless we know about our preferences for taking in and processing information or how we learn, for example, we may never know what we are missing. Unless we know how upbringing, culture or perceptual biases filter what we see or hear and how we interpret it, we are likely to see things as we are versus how they really are.

Instead of a smart phone and social media, tools for the kind of “selfie” that I’m talking about include personality surveys, “360” appraisals, openness to feedback, learning about ourselves from experience and capacities for self-reflection. Among other things, the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator reflects our preference for taking information in directly through our senses (whatever we can see, taste, touch or smell) vs. using intuition Sample-HDS-graph-smalland seeing patterns to determine what’s true even if not directly observable. It’s good for intuitives to know they will likely “miss some trees for the forest,” just as sensing types may “miss a few forests for the trees.” I use the Hogan Development Survey in some of my work to help clients identify which of eleven personality traits might derail their career. I wonder on how many occasions one of those derailers, excessive “boldness,” contributed to fatal transportation mishaps, exploding oil platforms and collapsed mines?

“It takes two to know one!”(S. Culbert) Actually, the more the better; employing “360” appraisals, openness to feedback, just asking for others’ candid input and really listening are among the best ways to learn about ourselves. Self-awareness is best played as a “team sport.”

Teams and organizations also benefit from “selfies” that reflect their character and culture. Culture or engagement surveys, commercially available team and organization assessment instruments, and consultants experienced in conducting organization assessments areSample-OIS-report-graph-small customary ways of reducing team and organizational blind spots. One of the most powerful questions of inTEgro’s Organizational Integrity Survey asks respondents to indicate how well senior leaders model the organization’s stated values. Senior teams are not happy if they learn that they scored 2.5 out of 5, but are in a much better position knowing that so they can do something about it instead of continuing to do more damage.

By all means, have fun with your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat selfies! While you’re at it, employ some of the strategies here for knowing yourself and your organization better.


“Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.”


“The outward journey is nothing without an equivalent journey within oneself; otherwise, we travel to the ends of the earth and yet stay exactly the same.”

Doug Ammons in Whitewater Philosophy

“Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.”

M. Scott Peck

(Banner photo credit: Flickr – skakeman)

Posted in Culture, Leadership, Performance, Personal development, Self Awareness, Teamwork, Uncategorized
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  • Al Watts
    Thanks, Patrick. Yes, the MBTI can be abused in that way, just like other instruments; we are so much more ...
  • Patrick Hirigoyen
    Very informative and enlightening on tools to achieve self-awareness, Al. I used to have a real problem with the Myers-Briggs, ...

Day after day, day after day,

We stuck, no breath no motion;

As idle as a painted ship

Upon a painted ocean.

–      (Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Rime of the Ancient Mariner)

Sailors know doldrums well – persistent stillness and lack of wind that prevents movement. They were the bane of ancient mariners, without benefit of auxiliary power or rigs that worked in light air. Spanish sailors transporting livestock to America were often becalmed around the 35th parallel north or south, severely prolonging their voyage. Those regions became known as the “horse latitudes” because it was where severe water shortages necessitated heaving horses overboard.

Today we can experience doldrums of a different sort, periods in our professional lives when forward momentum seems to cease. We might be clipping along at a great pace, Doldrums 757Live flickrconfident of reaching our destination, when inexplicably momentum and forward progress stop. It may not bother us at first; in fact the quiet and inactivity might initially be welcome in contrast to periods of hyperactivity. After a lengthy time in our own “horse latitudes,” however, energy, activity, prospects and confidence decline. We wait and hope, then wait and hope more for that next breeze or gust of wind. Ships that are stagnant for long periods develop different problems than wear from activity create, including rusting cables, mildew, rot and barnacles that will slow progress if winds resume. In addition to any of his own personal doubts and demons, a ship’s captain has the additional burden of not showing his doubts or fears; that would only aggravate those of an already restless crew.

Here are some strategies for navigating personal and professional doldrums:

  • Move; do something. A friend recently reminded me of a scene in the 1935 movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.” When the HMS Bounty is becalmed for days, herHMS Bounty Jerry_a flickr ruthless Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton) commands her crew to man the lifeboats, attach lines and begin towing the mega-ton ship. It reminded us that sometimes in the doldrums, it’s a good idea to just move, to do anything that at keeps us active and seemingly taking charge of our situation. There’s a Russian proverb that comes to mind: “Trust God, but row to shore.” Even if we’re just treading water, it beats sinking.
  • Do things differently. Stuck on a sand bar in the Apostle Islands once, we freed ourselves only after trying many different ways of breaking loose. Our last and successful effort required some ingenuity; you can read about it in my August 2009 newsletter, “In Praise of Outsiders.”
  • As Stephen R. Covey put it, use the time to “sharpen our saws.” If we’re trying to fell a large tree, taking time to occasionally sharpen our saw will save time and energy when we resume. We just saw Robert Redford’s new movie “All Is Lost.” When “our man’s” (as Redford’s character is named) sloop capsizes after colliding with a shipping container, he takes to his life raft and spends days aimlessly drifting in the Indian Ocean. He uses the time attempting to learn celestial navigation using a new, boxed sextant with instructions that he hurriedly threw in his raft. That kept his mind engaged, and was certainly effort that could pay dividends when lost at sea.
  • Stay alert. The biggest potential breaks or opportunities can arrive in the midst of doldrums, after allowing ourselves to be lulled into inattention. In “All Is Lost,” “our man” awakes from slumber just as the aft section of a giant freighter passes close by. Had he been more alert, he might have succeeded capturing its attention.
  • Get and provide support. In personal or professional doldrums, we are usually surrounded by potentially useful and supportive others, even if it doesn’t feel that way; many would be happy to lend support if we reached out. It is Sales graph SEOCumbria flickrimportant to tap resources already available, and to position ourselves where new resources might present themselves (e.g. networking.) If we’re part of a team experiencing the doldrums, especially if we are its leader, it is important to reach out and provide support to each other.
  • Take stock.  We seldom take time on our own for self-reflection; doldrums might be the universe’s way of suggesting that we slow down. We can use that time to literally “take stock” (as “our man” in All Is Lost did with supplies.) We might also use the time for objective evaluation of what contributed to our doldrums and how best to navigate away from them. Kevin Cashman’s book The Pause Principle is a wonderful guide for how to use “taking stock” time.
  • Navigate. Even if unable to move at the moment, planning and charting our course for when winds return pay dividends. It may not, or perhaps shouldn’t, be our original course; circumstances or motivations could be very different than they were. Last month’s newsletter about “Persistence – Is It Always Good?” offers some guidelines for determining when pressing on is admirable and when it might be just stubbornness or counterproductive.
  • Stay positive. ‘Easier said than done of course when we’re in the doldrums. Nevertheless the reality is that maintaining a positive outlook and not abandoning hope are among the strongest factors contributing to survival in any disaster situation. I’m all for authenticity, but sometimes to escape a funk we need to act our way out of it; if we’re part of a team, that’s usually contagious.

I hope that these reflections are useful should you find yourself in the doldrums. May you pass little time there, and make the best of it when you do.

Fair winds!


“Greatness is not where we stand, but in what direction we are moving.  We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes


“There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.”

Willa Cather

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