Workplace Wisdom

12 Dec 2017

It’s Always Better to Resolve a Problem Than to Reroute It

When should an organization realize that it’s not enough to keep stepping around a problem — and that it’s time to work through it and stop the excessive cost, disruption, and generally bad customer experience? Wrong Way, Go Back Here’s a personal example of bad customer service from last week: I arrived at Tucson International Airport, ready to return home after spending a satisfying, productive week with a wonderful client. I’m not a micro-packer so I had to check a […]

03 Oct 2017

3 Powerful, Practical Fundamentals to Help Change Stick

Change may be a constant in life, but in business, many planned change initiatives either peter out or don’t even take hold in the first place. According to a Towers Watson study, only slightly more than half of all change initiatives succeed, with only 25 percent sticking for the long term, mostly because of a variety of management failures. I consider this a problem of oversimplification — the result of the all-too-common “just do it,” “just say no,” “just tell […]

05 Jul 2017

Your Complaint Was Refused? No Surprise, They Don’t Care

If an employee ever says the equivalent of, “Please don’t tell me about your problem; I really don’t want to know,” you can be sure that the organization has bigger problems than the one you happen to be having. That was my sad experience traveling on the Hickory Hop shuttle from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to my long-awaited vacation destination. It turns out that the shuttle’s cute name is no indication of appealing service: Hickory Hop is in the business […]

11 Apr 2017

Sorry, Leaders Aren’t Entitled to Be Opinionated

“But I’m entitled to my opinion!” a vice president insisted. I was facilitating a work session with a client’s leadership team. Our goal was to resolve a longstanding business problem, with the full participation of dueling factions within the group. If you’ve ever been part of a management team that’s going in circles on a crucial issue, you know the process can cause great offense, and fuel anger and resentment. That’s why a facilitator can be useful: to help participants […]

31 Jan 2017

Stay Out of the Trap of One-Off Leadership

Many business owners prefer to make all their decisions on a case-by-case basis, as determined by their deep understanding of individual circumstances and well-developed gut instinct. They resist creating formal policy, believing that each situation calls for unique, specialized treatment — whether it’s resolving customer complaints or dealing with employees’ problems. An Argument on Behalf of Policy But the one-off approach isn’t always efficient or appropriate. I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs who started out with the assumption that decisions made […]

18 Oct 2016

Tried and Tested Ways to Make Better Team Decisions

When leaders make decisions skillfully, everyone on the team wins. But when leaders are poor decision-makers, the team’s performance and culture suffer, and individual team members can lose confidence and become disengaged. Unfortunately, though, team members don’t always make good decisions on their own. They may not have the experience or acumen, they may come in with preconceptions, or they may not recognize the ramifications of their choices. Most of us just make up our minds, without rigorously examining the […]

16 Aug 2016

Advice on How to Make a Case to Senior Leaders

I just heard from a middle manager who vented about her senior leaders’ lack of response after she made them aware of certain problems. She wondered if there were better ways to explain challenging circumstances or to present unwelcome information. First we discussed some of the possible reasons that her managers might actually disagree with her, their various alternative perspectives, and whether she isn’t privy to other information that they’re using to decide what is — or isn’t — important. […]

02 Aug 2016

Please! Recognize and Reject Reductive Rhetoric in Business

While following the 2016 Republican and Democratic Party conventions, I noted, with some concern, how gullible people can be. Despite the complexity of real-world situations, many voters seem too ready to trust politicians who give superficial, vague, and bombastic answers. This worries me. I wish we would turn down the sloganeering in favor of pursuing well-crafted, lasting solutions to societal problems. But this acceptance of reductive rhetoric isn’t limited to politics. There’s an interesting analog between the rhetoric of presidential […]

14 Jun 2016

Getting Our Signals Crossed at Work

One day last week after lunch, while walking back to my office, I noticed a man parking in the last of four curbside spots in front of the Post Office. He maneuvered a bit and then stopped his car just as another car pulled up, right behind him where there was no official spot. The windows in the second car were open, so I could hear the driver exclaiming to her passenger: “What’s he doing?! Why doesn’t he move up!?” […]

05 Apr 2016

The Surprising Truth about Consensus

Consensus sounds so nice: Everyone agrees and moves forward together. Kumbaya! Seems like a good thing, right? But here’s how one client described the way his company practices consensus (with my italics): “We have to take all these teeny little baby steps to get to consensus, one painful meeting after another. So by the time we get close, we’re all bought in, and we smile and swallow the Kool-Aid, even if it tastes like battery acid.” A Common Drawback to […]

 

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