Workplace Wisdom

16 May 2017

What to Do When Priorities Are in Conflict

Expand your market share. Increase your margin. Reorganize your team. Given the constant drumbeat of new and changing initiatives, it’s reasonable to wonder which priorities are truly the most important. I hear about this from clients with great frequency: “We just can’t get to everything.” “We’re not making enough progress.” “We do a new strat plan every few years, but we don’t seem to have moved any further.” Try Not to Lose Your Way It’s hard to work on more […]

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 […]

14 Mar 2017

Accountability: Be Careful What You Wish For

“Why is no one ever held accountable here?” A vice president was fuming at me, and not for the first time. “Why do we always act like everything’s fine instead of holding people accountable?” I’ve worked with a lot of companies, and the topic of accountability doesn’t come up unless someone thinks another person or group isn’t managing their end of things, and ought to take the blame. Sometimes it’s actually a veiled request for the leadership to swoop in […]

21 Feb 2017

How to Reduce the Risk of Shooting from the Hip

Years ago, I had a client who actually used to say, “Fire! Aim! Ready!” when he was issuing some decree or other. This business owner acknowledged he was shooting from the hip, reacting suddenly and without considering the impact of his words or his actions. Often there would be collateral damage, when his of-the-moment command or policy didn’t account for all the aspects of a situation or account for other initiatives that were already under way. Too frequently, employees ended […]

14 Feb 2017

4 Powerful Steps on the Way to Cross-Functional Agreement

I had a call with an up-and-coming middle manager who presented a complex situation and then asked a sincere question. A small cross-functional working group was trying to resolve some interdepartmental workflow and boundary issues. They had been dealing with — and avoiding — the same difficulties and discrepancies for almost 18 months out of fear of impending loss of status, staff, self-determination, etc., for at least some of the group’s members. “We have the brains” to work on the […]

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 […]

11 Oct 2016

What Are the Best Ways Leaders Make Up Their Minds?

Smart, effective decision-making is one of the most important and complex parts of team or organizational leadership. Leaders make up their minds based on what they already believe and the way they operate; then they deliver the decisions according to their personal style. I’ve worked with all kinds of leaders including profit-seeking, consensus-seeking, excitement-seeking, control-seeking, risk-avoidant, and conflict-avoidant; each of these styles can be both positive and negative, depending on the circumstance. Fast, Slow, or In Between? Not surprisingly, many […]

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 […]

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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