January 18, 2018

Archives for June 2012

Is slow adaptation the price we pay for democracy?

High Street sceneIn the West in particular, we believe in democracy, almost without thinking, but is it being abused?

You see…

When we elect a leader, we need them to lead, even if, in fact, we don’t like the consequences for us very much. That’s their job – to lead. That’s what we put them there for, not to spend their time working on getting re-elected.

But are we complicit? When the time comes to re-elect, do we reward the strong leader, or the politician who tells us it’s all going to be OK (when we suspect it isn’t)?

Modern political leaders often don’t seem to truly lead. They conceal uncomfortable truths. They are obsessed with opinion polls. They duck the tough decisions that we might say it’s their duty to take. They push the problems down the road, as the challenges all the while get more serious. Witness the Eurozone, Rio, public debt, and more.

And so problems don’t get handled.

Is the price we pay for democracy slow adaptation to change and weak response to crises?

How could it be different?

And is it a bit like this in organizations?

Do you take the tough decisions you need to take?

Don’t blame me. It was my iPhone/iPad/Blackberry wot did it

Handheld deviceHave you noticed? We’re blaming our handheld devices…

“Please forgive the typos. I’m an innocent victim of my evil iThang. Please work out for yourself what I really meant because I haven’t got time.”

And in true blaming style, we’re using automated signatures to get the blame in even when they haven’t done anything wrong.

I mean, I know they do seem to have a mind of their own and the spellchecking can be a little weird at times, but don’t we read our emails before we send them?

If we can’t be responsible for something 100% in our control, what can we be trusted with?

Blaming the IT just looks weak. How much mastery is there in making it your iPhone’s fault?

Not a lot.

And this goes for blame in general. Masters don’t blame. They take responsibility.

Do you take responsibility? Are you a master?

It was my iPad came up with this rant, not me, you understand.

A customer service question – What would you do? Plus an invitation

Reception bell(Please see below for an invitation to a new LinkedIn Discussion group – Change for Leaders.)

It’s lunchtime. We’re in a city hotel. A single receptionist is checking in guests. No sign of a concierge. A line has formed. One in the queue has a pre-arranged meeting with a staff member. Another wants to book a table in the restaurant.

The one with the meeting picks a moment when the receptionist is not actually speaking to a customer and asks if she can phone her colleague. The receptionist says she’ll do that when she’s finished with the people she is serving.

The line lengthens.

A delivery man arrives, places some packages on the counter and asks for a signature. Still the receptionist insists she will finish with the people she is currently serving first. She resumes watching those guests fill in the check-in forms.

Eventually the pressure builds and after 10 minutes the receptionist starts multi-tasking.

Perhaps she has been trained to focus completely on one customer at a time. Perhaps that’s appropriate. Really, perhaps it is. Or is it just what she prefers—a little bit of control?

So, there’s a management problem around staffing levels.

That aside…

What’s the right policy? Should someone serving focus totally on the customer in front of them, or should they process simple requests in parallel as and when they can? Which approach is most respectful overall?

What do you think? What would your service policy be? How would you instruct your staff?


You are invited to a new LinkedIn Discussion group: Change for leaders

Ever noticed that much written and said about change is all about doing to change to other people? And yet lasting transformation begins within ourselves and flows to others through our leadership. I’ve created a new group called Change for Leaders specifically to share learning about this key to successful change, on a large scale or a small scale.

If you’d like to be part of the new group—and I hope you would—please go to the join page here…


Looking forward to seeing you there.

Is it ideal that you enjoy everything you do?

Mother on the phone holding a childWe tend to think that if we align everything we do with what we want to do our results will be better simply because we’re content to be engaged actively in all the tasks.

But it isn’t necessarily so easy…

When we find a deeper sense of purpose, or if you like, a bigger mission which inspires us, we may find success at that level calls for contributing tasks we’d rather not do.

Some lower order obligations flow inevitably from our choice of mission. We need to do them to succeed, like it or not. The sequence of steps on the road isn’t ours to choose. We discover the path more than create it. If we work on a big theme some of the component parts are expected of us whether they sit well with us or not.

Is your ultimate goal compelling enough to carry you through?

Banter – Harmful or helpful?

Group of people listeningThe host pokes a little fun at the participants. It’s part of an elaborate pattern, you might even say a ritual, in some ways intended to lighten the mood. Trouble is, those at the receiving end feel a little intimidated and may think twice about contributing to the gathering. The end result is the banter inhibits the process, because it’s more about showing who’s boss.

In another place, the raillery seems to warm the mood of the meeting and put people at ease.

So what’s the difference?

And is banter a harmful or a helpful tactic?

Taking the second question first, I’d say be very careful. Banter, and humor in general, is very culturally dependent, and even if that aspect is OK, those less sure of themselves feel they can’t keep up. If in doubt, leave it out.

If you choose the riskier path, here’s what I think makes the difference…

There’s jocularity that puffs people up a little and there’s jocularity that deflates a little.


The quality of the meeting will be related to the self-esteem in the room. That seems likely, don’t you think?

So here’s my takeaway…

Keep ego and self-esteem in mind.

If you decide a little banter suits the circumstance and the people, reflect on this: Does your repartee build them up a bit, or does it knock them down a bit?

If you want a great meeting, I’d go for building them up.

That’s me.

What’s your take on banter?

How much needs to be right for results to flow?

Team applaudingTake a computer program: Essentially every single byte (or character in the source code) has to be right for the software to function correctly. Or think of a product development project: Pretty much all the pieces have to be correctly executed before the new product will succeed in the market. That’s not just all the technical tasks, but all the marketing, sales and logistics ones too. It’s a lot—remarkable anything ever works really.

So it is with people things: A whole lot of layers need to be appropriately attended to before the outcome we want will happen. Here’s some that might apply…

  • An understanding of the systemic nature of things
  • Leadership
  • Connection with the market or the audience
  • Compelling writing
  • Good design
  • Interpersonal relationships
  • Financial compensation for contributors
  • Effective communication and dialogue
  • Shared vision
  • Common understanding
  • A sense of timing
  • Self-responsibility
  • Hope
  • Care


Chances are, your answer contributes to one or more of these, but not all of them.

What’s your approach to integrating all the parts you need? How do you tell where your contribution hands off to one from someone else? When should you be in the front seat and when in the back?

Making good calls about this is key to your success.

How conscious are you of your cultural imprint?

Mixed group of peopleThe speaker presents a prescription based on a profound understanding of human beings. That’s the way it seems to me anyway. Some listeners find what’s said challenging, and reject the messages, saying it’s all very “American”. (This scene is in the UK, needless to say.)

What the doubters hear doesn’t fit for them.

But here’s the thing…

How aware are they of their conditioning from where they grew up? Not much, would be my thought.

In my experience, engaging in learning programs with participants from different cultures teaches us, often with a sudden, shocking realization that what we thought was just part of the human makeup is, no, actually part of our cultural programming—no more than that and about as useful.

We have lots of this imprint, and we are blind to most of it. Our conditioning amounts to unconscious “competence”, helping us fit in at an earlier stage in life. So we don’t realize when we’re reacting to something that the dissonance may be a function of our programming, and not anything fundamental.

Mixing up and integrating cultures tends to reveal the essence of being human and I’d say it’s worth listening to those from countries where mixing of cultures is a major feature. They might be seeing more clearly.

And it’s good to be aware of the specifics of your own cultural conditioning. It’s a big job, but worth it.

What do you do to avoid cultural biases in your work, and with other people?

(And how aware am I of mine in writing this?)

Authenticity is the key to powerful connection with others

Four people in conversationCan you stop the leaks?

 …or is there a better answer?

Authenticity—being real—is the key to powerful connection with others.

As human beings, we are highly adept at sensing lack of authenticity. And yet, it’s surprising how many individuals and organizations behave as if they will get away with insincerity and even untruths, provided they are not explicitly found out. They don’t seem to realize we sense the lack of authenticity a mile off.

We all unconsciously sense inconsistent verbal and non-verbal messages, and it’s a skill we can heighten with conscious practice. Then not much at all will get by because a body speaks the truth. The non-verbal “leaks” give the game away.

We might imagine we can stop the leaks and fake authenticity. Well, having been around some masters of awareness, I’d say it’s best to assume we can’t.

So choose to be real and congruent. Then everything we communicate is consistent. And we stay connected.

It’s tempting sometimes to choose the little untruths.

Authenticity is really the only safe course.