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Blue Health™ Videos English/Danish/Spanish

BH Video

Blue Health™ is the newest Leadership Development program created by Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a global consultancy based in the USA.

Here is a 2-minute video in ENGLISH.

Here is a 2-minute video in SPANISH.

Here is a 2-minute video in DANISH.

So, if you are interested in having critical thinkers as leaders (as opposed to mindless foot soldiers) and resilient leaders who can bounce back (regardless of whatever “shizzle” is coming down the pike at work – or at home), then your company needs this program.

We build healthy, functional leaders.

Contact us at info@corporatelookingglass.com.
Visit us at CorporateLookingGlass.com

How to Turn a Dysfunctional Leader into a Highly Functional Leader

BH Blog 1

Jane Doe (Not her real name!) is a VP at a large organization.  Her boss sits in the C-Suite and rewards her for reaching the objectives listed in her job description.  The problem is Jane has had more than two entire team turnovers in less than two years.  Her boss wrestles with the question: How can he let Jane go when she is doing exactly what he hired her to do?

Jane’s boss weighs the actual costs of personnel lost, recruiter time, learning curve and the intangible costs of distrust, watercooler chatter and lack of team cohesion against Jane meeting his annual objectives and goals.  It’s so much easier for him to keep the status quo, so he turns a deaf ear to the complaints streaming in through the uneasy Human Resource directors.  Jane’s workhorse style and “the whippings shall continue until you are all happy” are inconsequential to him, since results matter more than feelings.  In essence, he is teaching Jane to just “get ‘er dun” and she is more than ready to comply.

Let’s be clear here: The dysfunctional leader is not just Jane; it is, firstly, her boss.

Examples like this real-life “Jane” and her boss abound in Corporate America.  Yet, slumped productivity, wide-spread disengagement, and high levels of attrition are costing the U.S. economy an estimated $370 billion yearly, according to Gallup.*

  • How can a company retain specialized top talent AND keep team retention strong?
  • How can the organization avoid ex-employees posting on GlassDoor.com and damaging the organization’s brand and reputation of its ability to manage well?

Blue Health™ is a two-day Leadership Development program that is designed with a heuristic approach – which enables executives to discover how they can improve engagement, productivity, and overall well-being for themselves, their teams, and the organization as a whole.

The Blue Health™ model demonstrates the ancient Greek philosophical foci of Mind, Body, and Spirit (Energy Management); to which we have added the systemic dimension of the Organization.  This Positive Psychology program is a deep dive into optimizing performance and social dynamics. It engages participants in critical thinking and incorporates various methods of adult learning theory to keep comprehension and interaction levels high.

Our associates have conducted primary research from executives within the world’s five Blue Zones (locations known for holding the highest concentration of self-sufficient centenarians), and Blue Health™ is endorsed by multiple medical doctors from the only Blue Zone in the USA; Loma Linda, California.

If you are ready for healthy, functional leadership, please contact us at info@CorporateLookingGlass.com for further information.  Or, dial 615.431.9689.

Be Well.

Rossina Gil is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC, a team of Leadership and Organization Development Practitioners and Interculturalists, based across the USA.  Rossina co-launched the Blue Zones initiative in Des Moines, Iowa (Sponsor: Wellmark); and Redondo Beach, California (Sponsor: Beach Cities Health District).  She is the author of The Corporate Looking Glass: Using Culture for Your Competitive Advantage (available on Amazon.com), which is required reading at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management.  www.CorporateLookingGlass.com

© Rossina Gil, 2015

*Source:

http://www.fastcompany.com/3009012/the-costs-of-ignoring-employee-engagement

 

Releasing January 2016: Blue Health™ — A Corporate Wellness Program

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What does Blue Health™ include?  Two facilitators lead the two days of constructive conversations which result in personalized Action Plans and a Purpose statement.  The metric tools utilized are: Ntrinsx SF

What makes Blue Health™ better than other corporate wellness programs?

This program is designed by professional Organization Development practitioners based around the USA, who have banded together from having formerly worked with today’s most competitive wellness models:

Blue Zones, Creation Health, and Healthy Companies.  It is also endorsed by Medical Doctors.

Collectively, the wealth of our experience maximizes your corporate health and competitive advantage.

How do I sign my organization up for Blue Health™?

Please write us at info@corporatelookingglass.com.  An associate will connect with you promptly.

CorporateLookingGlass.com                                                          Rossina Laugh 1

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC — a consultancy firm active across the USA, composed of Organization Development practitioners, Executive Coaches, and Interculturalists.  Rossina is a former resident of the only “Blue Zone” in the country, and shares her community lessons in this Wellness program, along with her insights from working across multiple industries.

Climbing the Ladder of Inference with Andrea Bocelli

Bocelli

Work colleagues get a lot of exercise climbing the Ladder of Inference.  We take action on our beliefs from stories that we solidify in our minds.  It is done within seconds.  This is especially dangerous when the ladder climbing is done by senior executives in snap judgments about colleagues at lower levels.  Projects are taken away, erroneous information is passed along, missed opportunities for professional growth and development (on both sides) take place, and more unfortunate circumstances happen.

When Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli delivered his first performance in New York City several years ago, a critic wrote something along the lines of, Bocelli’s magnificence has clearly gone to his head as he failed to establish eye contact with his adoring audience. The critic had risen up the Ladder of Inference (see image below) by first selecting from the observable data the fact (or behavior) that Andrea did not establish eye contact. This part no one can dispute.

The meaning he applied to the behavior is that lack of eye contact signals megalomania. The assumption he drew is that anyone who is talented (or, in other cases, intelligent, beautiful, etc.) feels s/he is at a higher level than the rest and, thus, does not need to look anyone in the eye. The conclusion is that Bocelli was “full of himself” because he is such a fantastic singer that this clear talent gives him justification to act as though he is better than the rest. The critic’s belief is that Bocelli’s personality is a detriment to his talent.

If you know anything about Andrea Bocelli, you would then know that he is blind. Blind people have a considerable challenge to look anyone in the eye.

Ladder

INQUIRY

Here is one remedy to avoid this workplace hazard:

  1. DESCRIBE THE BEHAVIOR: Andrea, I saw you sing with your eyes closed.
  2. ASK FOR INTERPRETATION: Would you please tell me what that means to you?

(Colleague interprets behavior).

  1. EVALUATE: Based off of this information, you can decide whether Andrea merits a more favorable review for his outstanding performance.

MENTORING

Here is another remedy to avoid this workplace hazard:

The mentor conversation may involve impact.  It would sound something like this:

Andrea, I noticed that you performed with your eyes closed (BEHAVIOR).  The impact I had is that we are inferior to you.  I know that only I own my emotions (ACCOUNTABILITY), and I am concerned (FEELING) that others may feel the same way; so, I wanted to privately (PROFESSIONAL) offer you this feedback in an effort to support your success at our organization (CONSTRUCTIVE).  The culture here is about treated others as equals (MENTORING).”

Wait for response.  In this instance, the mentor might feel embarrassed upon discovering the reason; in other cases, the mentor may wish to co-create an action plan and follow up.

Mentor feedback focuses on behavior.  It is constructive feedback; not destructive feedback that would leave a colleague feeling as though he may have jeopardized his future at the organization and/or instantly alienated himself from colleagues.

Above all, AVOID LABELS (i.e. adjectives) and focus on behaviors.  Telling Andrea (or anyone else, for that matter) that he is snobby, big-headed, stuck-up, etc. does not help him get to where the larger system can benefit from his talent.  How can your words and actions move the organization forward?  Speak with the person who is worthy of your counsel and perspective.  That will lead you, and the other individual, towards much richer conversations and outcomes.

Peace.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a firm believer in growing and developing talent as a Global Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, and is the founder of Corporate Looking Glass, LLC – a diverse consultancy of OD experts and strategic thinking partners.

We increase retention.  Visit CorporateLookingGlass.com.

© Rossina Gil, 2015

Resource:

Senge, Peter.  The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization

Buddhism and Mindful Leadership

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An examination of how philosophy impacts leadership would be incomplete without introducing the philosophy of Buddhism.  Many people confuse Buddhism with religion.  This confusion is easy to understand since there is a central figure; however, much like the great European philosophers, Siddharta Gautama (a.k.a. Buddha) was simply another systemic thinker who presented concepts from a holistic perspective.  Therefore, unlike in religion(s), Buddha is not a deity who is worshipped; and, unlike in philosophy, there are innumerable statues of his image.

Buddha is also frequently mistaken for being Chinese.  While his teachings are widely accepted across China, and much of Asia, Gautama (circa 566-480 BC) was the son of an Indian warrior-king.  He was a prince who grew up living a sheltered life of luxury.  Like many change agents, he appears to have been somewhat counter-dependent, since he decided to shockingly renounce his high-caste title and become a monk.  This act alone rendered him a lot of influence.  His breakthrough concepts on how to live life earned him the sobriquet “Buddha,” which means “awakened one,” or, the “enlightened one.”

The Four Noble Truths

Among Buddha’s teachings, he taught four basic tenets on life, which he called the Four Noble Truths.  These are the following:

  1. The truth of suffering.  Simply put, we all have it.  No one can escape it; so just face it.  It’s a part of life.   (This is reminiscent of Stoicism).
  2. The truth of the cause of sufferingDesire and the refusal to acknowledge suffering are the root cause of suffering.  As humans, we can never be satisfied with enough pleasure and possessions.  Consequently, these desires bring suffering.  Those caught in the so-called “rat race” of life may not recognize their suffering.  Ignorance comes from this inability to see the world in its actuality, which, in turn, invites the vices of hatred, greed, and envy…”Keeping up with the Joneses.”  (Notice how similar the message is to the Judeo-Christian messages of “Love thy neighbor” and “Thou shalt not covet anything that is thy neighbor’s.”)
  3. The truth of the end of suffering.  Once you stop desiring and ignoring suffering, you’re either dead or spiritually awakened.  Period.  Who can deny this pragmatic perspective?
  4. The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.  This is essentially Buddha’s Personal/Professional Development Plan.  He calls the action steps towards ending suffering, the “Noble Eightfold Path,” which is divided into three themes:

1) Moral Conduct (Understanding, Thought, Speech);

2) Meditation and Mental Development (Action, Livelihood, Effort); and,

3) Wisdom/Insight (Mindfulness and Concentration).

Buddhist rituals, such as chanting and meditation, are intended to help people focus their minds.  It is not to demonstrate faith.  However, the rituals are comparatively similar to these “great three religions” (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) which share the same deity (namely, Yahweh, God, Allah, respectively) in that the believers of the “Great Three” may rock, close their eyes, say memorized verses, and kneel or prostrate themselves in prayer in order to concentrate and focus their attention to feel a more powerful communication to their deity.  Buddhists often meditate by closing their eyes and focusing on their breathing.  If the Great Three believe the breath of life to be a gift from the Supreme Being, then meditation could be considered a practice acceptable to atheists and believers of the Great Three alike.

Corporate Application: Mindful Leadership

Standing in the land of the Delta Blues at the intersection of Christianity and Buddhism is Elmo Shade of Mindful Foundations.  An Organization Development Practitioner by trade, Elmo specializes in coaching executive leadership to optimize their energy management skills and increase their ability to aim and sustain their attention.  Ultimately, this practice results in improved present-moment awareness, clarity, and focus – which, together, lends itself towards purposeful decision-making.

Aside from his mellifluous Southern, Memphis accent, Elmo is unique, compared to Jon Kabat-Zinn, in that his sessions on Mindfulness and Leadership Effectiveness stem from his experience of living in the South during the Civil Rights Movement and his travels to the hinterlands of China.  Elmo welcomes skeptics to participate in a trial session to experience first-hand his approach to performance improvement.  He is a modern-day philosopher who walks among us.  You can find him at MindfulFoundations.com.

Breathe.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Note: The author is Christian, resides in the Bible Belt, has read the Old and New Testaments 3x over,  attended religiously-affiliated schools for 16 years, and is thoroughly amused by the movie Life of Pi.

Resources:

Holy Bible, Galatians 5:14; Exodus 20:17

Shade, Elmo.  MindfulFoundations.com

Stevenson, Jay, Ph.D.  Philosophy.  Penguin Group. 2014.

©Rossina Gil, 2013

10 Traits of a Positive Thinker: #1 OPTIMISM

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À la Ventrella (i.e. Scott Ventrella), who built his work, The Power of Positive Thinking in Business, upon the foundation of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s work, he states that “Positive thinkers are tough-minded reality-based people who blast through problems with energy and zeal.”  Cynics and skeptics do not change the world.

Ventrella lists the 10 traits of a positive thinker as the following: 1. Optimism, 2. Enthusiasm, 3. Belief, 4. Integrity, 5. Courage, 6. Confidence, 7. Determination, 8. Patience, 9. Calmness, 10. Focus.

This blog addresses Optimism in Leadership.  The next 9 traits will be addressed in my weekly postings.  If you can answer “yes” to the following questions, you may be a leader who exhibits optimism…

  • Do I meet challenges with a sense of control?
  • Do I act with a sense of hope about what lies ahead?
  • Do I work to minimize the impact of my doubts and fears?
  • Do I keep my spirits up even when things aren’t going well?
  • Do I gear myself to be positively hopeful in my attitudes and expectations?

The “Law of Positive Expectancy” (or the Power of Projection) can be defined by the story the “Little Engine That Could.”  Through hard work and optimism the Little Engine achieved what it expected to achieve, which is what we can do for ourselves as humans.  We also achieve what others expect us to achieve – such as parents, role models, teachers, coaches, etc. – and, conversely, we may not establish “stretch goals” for ourselves nor attempt to achieve what we project to be possible, or thwart any intentions to achieve something, if others deem our ideas as impossible.

In the workplace, optimistic leaders gain a competitive edge on others because they have…

  1. Self-Enhancement – Decision-Makers can control their anxiety better with optimism, which allows wiser judgment.
  2. Self-Presentation – Leaders who present themselves in an optimistic manner and more positive light are generally more accepted than those who are negative.
  3. Perceived Control – Leaders in control (or perceived control) tend to rely heavily on direct action and responsibility of situations.

TRIGGERS

Most of us are sporadic pessimists.  This means that we occasionally get triggered by situations that tend to contribute towards making us FEEL, THINK, or ACT less optimistically.  Below are four itemized categories of areas that may dim your optimism in the workplace.

Being Managed

  1. Receiving (or not receiving) performance reviews/feedback.
  2. Being left out of decisions or plans.
  3. Not being recognized or rewarded for performance.
  4. Difference in personal and/or managerial styles.
  5. Lack of communication with my manager on work progress, issues, opportunities.

Managing Others

  1. Giving performance reviews or feedback to others.
  2. Having to deal with conflicts among others.
  3. Dealing with style differences among employees.
  4. Being kept “out of the loop” on important issues, problems or decisions. (See blog Workplace Xenophobia)
  5. Having to deal with personal problems.

Organization & Culture

  1. Company politics and game playing.
  2. Policies, processes, or systems that hinder progress, new ideas, or exceptions to the norm.
  3. Reorganization, reengineering, downsizing, and so on.
  4. Bureaucratic structures, reporting relationships, layers.
  5. Insufficient communication and dialogue about what is happening and why.

Peer & Customer Relationships

  1. Company gossip or the “grapevine.”
  2. Opinions or feedback on my performance that goes to others, not me.
  3. Feeling or knowing that I am being lied to, blamed, or patronized.
  4. Not being able to negotiate over projects, deadlines, requests.
  5. Being left out of decisions or problem solving that affects me and/or my employees. (See blog The Corporate Bully)

Bobby McFerrin wasn’t the first to sing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” but if we sing it ourselves, our positive well-being and self-esteem are healthy for us and can influence others favorably.

Optimism helps.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Sources:

Scott Ventrella, The Power of Positive Thinking in Business (New York, NY: Fireside), 2001. (pp. 15, 69-71, 112-113).

 

©Rossina Gil, 2013

Judgment Day

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Most people dislike judgment and wish to escape it. However, judgment is much like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog’s Day…it is there every day, and there’s not too much one can do about it, but get used to it and make the most of it.

Psychologist Paul Ekman argues that judgment is essential to survival. It is a part of our hardwiring, since judgment stems from our EMOTIONS. In fact, Dr. Ekman asserts that there are seven universal emotions: Contempt, Disgust, Anger, Sadness, Surprise, Fear, and Joy. These emotions are called universal because he found that the expressions for these emotions are understood regardless of one’s cultural origin. To test his theory, he brought pictures of authentic emotions to a remote village in Papua, New Guinea – a place where civilization was left untouched by the outside world and could not have “learned” these expressions through media or human contact. His landmark study revealed that these seven emotions are innate and could be accurately assessed by other humans. So, all humankind is born with the ability to “judge” or ascertain situations.

 

But Isn’t Judgment Bad?

All judgmental comments are helpful in understanding the NEEDS of the individual placing the judgment; hence, the utilization of Performance Management Reviews and 360-Reviews in the workplace. Subjective assessments can be mitigated by including all comments; not just the critical and hypercritical feedback.

Supervisors, and those without Direct Reports, can make more effective judgments in a variety of ways. First and foremost, slow down the knee-jerk reaction by practicing inquiry. Then, contemplate the three areas I reiterate in my blogs, namely: EMOTIONS, THOUGHTS, and ACTIONS.

EMOTIONS. Dr. Ekman found that emotions are a psycho-physiological (i.e. mind/body) experience that drive a person to action. As infants, we experienced emotion before cognitive development. So, when someone expresses an emotion and we do not understand the reason or intensity of the emotion, we have very likely at some point, and under different circumstances, experienced the same emotion and can, therefore, relate to the person using critical judgment. RECOMMENDATIONS: Practice compassion. Ask yourself, have I ever been disappointed, frustrated, confused, etc. by XYZ (e.g. someone offering me direct feedback, not giving enough face-time, not communicating “enough,” using words I can’t understand)?

THOUGHTS. Each employee moves forward making a series of daily decisions based on their thinking process. Reasoning is usually a combination of Nature (i.e. genetic/internal) and Nurture (i.e. environment/external). For example, a supervisor could be a Linear thinker and can get lost if someone jumps from A to C, without having discussed B. Men are typically Linear thinkers. If s/he is Linear and has a Systemic thinker for a direct report, then conflict can ensue because the supervisor could feel frequently lost and may attribute that to the direct report. A Systemic thinker can easily jump from A to D (or even G) because that is how his/her mind works. Women are typically Systemic thinkers, which is why there are jokes about how complicated a woman’s mind is (7-lane highway or massive circuitry) versus a man’s mind (dirt road or a one-push button). RECOMMENDATIONS: Practice Inclusion and Equifinality. This means that “there are more ways than one to skin a cat.” Plus, diverse thinking increases your competitive advantage (See blog Women in Corporate Leadership).

ACTIONS. Since we are the product of the sum of our experiences, we tend to be more receptive towards certain individuals than to others. At work, one supervisor/direct report might think that you’re fantastic, while the next one may not. How does this happen? Experiences vary by individual and that is what impacts and shapes expectations. Lack of experience usually reduces the ability to practice inclusion and equifinality; and if s/he has little to no experience and lacks compassion, then you are S.O.L. (i.e. sh*t out of luck). RECOMMENDATIONS: Recognize how experience contributes “added value.” Experience, unless dysfunctional, never diminishes value contribution and must be optimized.

Suspend judgment. Embrace emotion, question it, and do no harm.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Source:

Ekman, Paul. Emotions Revealed. (New York: Owl Books, 2003).

©Rossina Gil, 2013

Women in Corporate Leadership

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Since we each have a predominant proclivity towards a particular style, being able to understand, leverage, and blend the other styles helps an organization maximize its competitive advantage. Another way to optimize strategic input is to incorporate women in corporate leadership.

A recent Catalyst study reported: Fortune 500 companies with three or more women on the Board outperform other companies with 53% more returns on equities, 42% more return on sales and 66% more return invested capital.

What keeps women back?

Sure, some women may “opt out” to care for their children, but the real hindrance is two-fold:

  1. External – the culture (ACTIONS)
  2. Internal – fear of failure, perfectionism/underestimation, risk-aversion (THOUGHTS; EMOTIONS)

EXTERNAL. Unfortunately, in my corporate experience in Leadership Development, the external variable is typically attributed towards men imposing a glass ceiling on women. I regret to share my observation how it is also other women’s insecurities projected onto women that prevent the successes of our corporate sisters. Whether it be envy or wishing to be the sole woman at the top, there are invariably those who shove a steel stiletto into the face of the woman climbing the corporate ladder behind (or next to) her. As an Arab proverb goes, “people only throw sticks and stones at fruit-bearing trees,” or in modern-day parlance, as Ryan Seacrest says, “If no one hates you, then you’re not successful enough.”

INTERNAL. Women internalize far too much. Women are more likely to crumble, kvetch, and gripe about having received a negative appraisal or imperfect critique; whereas men tend to blow off the criticism as someone else’s problem. Whether criticism is positive or negative (and hopefully requested as opposed to unsolicited), you may place it into 1 of 3 buckets: valid, invalid, and irrelevant. Congressman (sic) Marsha Blackburn shares, “It can be very helpful to learn to process criticism (just) as you do your mail – sort it while hovering over the trash can: ‘Junk…junk…junk…hmmm, not sure, I’ll open that one and see…junk…’”

The internal variable appears to supersede the external variable…what I mean by this is, history is replete with examples of how women have achieved leadership success (i.e. self-confidence or assuredness in one’s ability), despite gender (i.e. socio-cultural barriers). In fact, there are currently 17 female world leaders in power as Presidents and Prime Ministers of their respective nations, as of January 15, 2013: http://www.filibustercartoons.com/charts_rest_female-leaders.php.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Create a community within the organization (& outside) of mentors, role-models, networking groups. Find those who can help navigate through an organization and provide a support system.

  2. Identify your value contribution, your unique talents, what you bring to the work environment to best enable success.

  3. Make sure that your voice is heard. Speak up and speak out.

  4. Don’t wait for a promotion; when you’re ready, ask for more. You don’t ask, you don’t get!

  5. Expose girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM careers) subjects early on.

 ORGANIZATION-SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Offer retention-focused benefits such as on-site childcare, maternity benefits, women’s networking groups, mentoring, and development.

  2. Ask women in the organization what they want and need from their employers. What do they value? For some, it may be the option of flexible work arrangements or job-sharing.

  3. Create a culture that appreciates Inclusion; not conformity to the male leadership model (see my blog Workplace Xenophobia).

  4. Take a hard stance on sexual harassment. One company paid its female executive for her lawsuit against one of the organization’s most senior executives, and the company continues to employ him, despite the dozens of witnesses to his harassment. The result? The talent left (which is one less woman to promote); and, what kind of message does that send to the remaining talent base? For an organization to be healthy and competitive, it is imperative that all levels of management be protected.

Susan Lucas-Conwell, Global Chief Executive Officer at Great Place to Work® shared, “Ultimately, an organization that genuinely cares about their women employees will keep their women. We have found that those companies that have active policies in place that ensure equal rights for women and have taken active steps to redress that imbalance, are most successful.”

The question “Can Women Have It All?” is immanently sexist. How the workplace enables us all (men, women, Baby Boomer, Gen Y, etc) to have it all, however we define it, will be the hallmark of a great place to work; a workplace where attrition will be low.

Women, the time is nigh!  Veni, vidi, vici, Baby.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Copyright 2013

Sources:

Catalyst.org

Greatplacetowork.com

Marsha Blackburn, Life Equity, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson), 2008.

 

Give Us Strategy! (Or Give Us Corporate Death!)

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A lot of companies demand a strategy, and this action is metaphorically like placing the cart before the horse.  Culture is the strategy.  Therefore, it is more advisable to focus on the organizational culture prior to focusing on the customer and/or the product.  The organization is the product.  The organization is a collected group of people.  This is why there must be unequivocal emphasis placed on the culture before the strategy can be formulated.

It is for this reason that my Claremont Graduate University professor, the late Peter Drucker, said so long ago, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”  Many professionals don’t understand this, including a Chief Marketing Officer who wrote about this topic in one of his blogs.  Those confused argue against Drucker’s statement and how “culture trumps strategy” and further pontificate that strategy must be aligned with culture.  Idealistically, yes.  Realistically, not so much…What happens is that networking leads to positions (most especially at the C-Suite level), and it is typically top-leaders who create the “reward band” (i.e. determining who gets promoted), and that is usually how the tone is set of unwritten rules of behavior.  Those behavioral expectations set into motion a shift into what becomes the organizational culture.

Successful organizations have a visceral, palpable culture which permeates all managerial levels (i.e. Inclusion); otherwise, there can be a no definable, sure-fire strategy.  They will probably have a number of full-time recruiters working in-house to attract top talent, but they will certainly not be able to retain their talent– either by resignation or fiscal failure.  The key is having the leaders set the example and that begins by addressing the drivers (see my blog on “How Fear Interferes in the Workplace”).

Allow me to provide some concrete examples that differentiate culture from strategy.  First, what is culture?  Culture is a set of beliefs, behaviors, and values performed by a collected group of individuals.  This parallels my blogs on Thoughts, Actions, and Emotions (not to mention Jim Rohn’s Philosophy, Action, and Attitude).  Second, what is strategy?  Strategy is a plan of action designed to reach a particular goal. 

MILITARY EXAMPLE.  The strategy for the military would be their military plan, which entails which resources to procure, which techniques/commands for soldiers to employ, etc.  The military culture is tough and committed to team loyalty.  If the military attracts soldiers per their culture, then their strategy would work.  If they recruit those who start but don’t finish, who crumble easily, and who are highly individualistic without regard for a soldier left behind, then the strategy would not work.

BEST PRACTICE CORPORATE EXAMPLESouthwest Airlines was founded by flamboyant Herb Kelleher.  Their strategy is a business plan which entails how to keep their planes in the air, filled with passengers, and easy for mechanics to maintain.  Their culture is casual/informal (e.g. shorts, funny songs, jokes, and bags of peanuts thrown down the aisles), egalitarian (e.g. male and Baby Boomer flight attendants, pilots are not superior to cabin staff), and cost-focused (e.g. only one style of plane, no meals).  Their recruitment begins with observing the prospective employee or candidate-for-hire as they board the plane heading for the interview.  If the candidate fits the culture, then s/he, unknowingly, makes it through the first round.  If Southwest Airlines were to recruit those who are stoic, formal, and hierarchical, then the strategy would not work.  Why?  Because it’s too far of a cultural stretch for the new employees to unlearn their natural and conditioned behavior.

FAILED CORPORATE EXAMPLE.  Most companies choose to state as a “strategy” that they are to be the “best” at their product/service.  Without stating specifically and concretely WHAT that looks like, HOW it is measured, WHICH action steps are to be taken, “to be the best” is simply empty rhetoric.  Their “culture” is false propaganda aimed as a lame attempt to market the organization as an industry leader and/or to attract top talent.  For example, the culture could proclaim to be “family, health, and innovative.”  Reality may be that the “family” includes scores of “Cinderellas” and ugly stepchildren, “health” is recognized for the favorites (i.e. emotional health and preferential treatment), and “innovative” is without measure (i.e. subjective).  This type of company lacks culture, and suffers from severe fragmentation and high attrition.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Employee Engagement Surveys serve no value if the objective is to aim for a higher score year after year.  Leaders who tout that they must achieve a higher score than the previous year will influence their subordinates to rate a high score and not answer according to perspective.  It becomes a ritualistic exercise in futility.

2. Hire a Leadership Development (LD) professional who has studied Organization Development.  One per every 300-400 employees is advisable.  S/He can conduct a cultural analysis, retain confidentiality for employees (i.e. no documentation of conversations), and develop teams.  Anthropologist Margaret Mead said all change is possible in small groups.

3.  C-Suite executives must have mandatory coaching.  This is to avoid corporate bullies who take on defensive/offensive controller behavior(s) of their respective division(s).  Either the coaching is performed by an external, in order to avoid repercussions (i.e. termination); or, an internal LD professional who has a contract, and thereby has the assurance to do his/her work without “cloak & dagger” consequences.

4. Provide quality Performance Management Reviews (PMRs).  This is a weakness pervasive across America.  Most especially at one recent client where the supervisor would proselytize to others to not “Make Stuff Up” but when it came to himself, his defense was that he was fairly intuitive and others had even told him so!  For these reasons, he believed he was entitled to make assumptions without inquiry.  It would behoove organizations to promote employees with zero direct report experience into supervisory roles, only after they have been thoroughly trained as to how to provide a quality PMR; otherwise, their feedback can be destructive/ineffective behavior that may tear at the fabric of the culture and increase attrition.  Using a Behavioral Science tool (e.g. Ntrinsx) should help those supervisors lacking supervisory experience &/or education.

Here are some tips for quality PMRs:

  1. Feedback has to always be first-hand observation; otherwise, the feedback is gossip and that is not a professional PMRs.  Leaders are not susceptible to hear-say.
  2. It must be non-accusatory and free from condemnation.  Separate the action from judging the person.  One supervisor took his direct report into a room to say how “embarrassed” he was of her.  While the emotion demonstrated is best kept honest, this incident was a reflection of his managerial inadequacies.  Supervisory feedback is intended to develop the direct report; it is not an allowance to use the direct report as a target or therapeutic outlet for one’s deficiencies.
  3. Effective feedback serves as an aid and includes specific actions which are effective, and also provides, as a contrast, specific behaviors that were observed to be ineffective.
  4. Look in the mirror.  This touches upon compassion.  Is the criticism provided also information that you can apply to yourself?  Or, are you applying a double-standard?  If so, you may merit some push back.
  5. Keep it confidential.  This “should” be a no-brainer; however, one supervisor with three direct reports, shared information supplied by one direct report about a second one to the third.  This is called “Triangulation,” in Psychology.
  6. Lastly, nothing should be in writing until Round 2 – this means that feedback must not be a “Surprise!  Gotcha!” event.  The direct report deserves the professional opportunity to rectify behavior prior to seeing it in black-&-white, ready to be filed away.  So, have the courage to have the conversation prior to PMRs to solidify your leadership relationship and abilities.

Be true to who you are, and the rest will follow.  Identity is destiny, or suffer the true corporate death.

Thank you.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Sources:

Jody Hoffer Gittell, The Southwest Airlines Way, (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2005).

Jim Rohn, Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle, (Lake Dallas, TX: Jim Rohn Int’l, 1991).