“Is Your Personal Life Screwing Up Your Business?”

On a recent flight, I had a most interesting conversation with my seatmate. (He had a fascinating job – costing out massive infrastructure projects all over the world. He had a unique take on the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East – that it would be a boon for Western countries because it would create billions of dollars of projects in underdeveloped countries.) We were discussing what each of us did, and at one point, he said, “Business can really screw up your personal life.” In my own inimical fashion, I heard myself saying, “No, you’ve got it backwards. Your personal life can really screw up your business.” He looked kind of quizzical and asked what I meant. I then had to quickly figure out what I did mean. (As I’ve said, on a number of occasions, I don’t plan what I say, very often. It’s almost always what I mean, but I figure it out after its released from my mouth.)

I don’t think, in the last thirty years, that I’ve seen a time in which so many people and so many relationships have melted down, and created crises in the workplace. Well, you might say, look at the economy for the last three years – that’s your answer. That may play a role, but I think that it’s far from the complete answer. I believe that the economy has been a catalyst for personal and interpersonal dysfunction, but not the fundamental cause. I see the economy serving the same role as alcohol for alcoholics. Liquor does not create addicts. Addicts abuse substances (or food, or sex, or people, ad infinitum) to dull their pain. The substance sparks the addiction and helps make it worse. So, I think, does the economy.
For some time now, I’ve become convinced that at least half the population is personally unhappy and unfulfilled, and has chosen personal, intimate relationships that are massive compromises. I don’t mean by this that the relationships are intrinsically bad and beyond hope. I mean that both parties, at some level, have decided that their relationship sucks less than not having one at all. This results in a decision, almost always unconscious, to lower their expectations, put up with what they don’t like or respect in their partner, and toss in the towel on ever getting their emotional (or, often, their physical) needs met. All the lousy economy does, is bring to the surface, serious, unattended to, personal and interpersonal issues that have been well camouflaged by better financial times. As we say in business, profits can hide a multitude of sins.
This shows up, in the workplace, as escalating irritability, passive-aggressive behavior (I’ll tell you what you want to hear, to your face, and then I’ll go off and do whatever the hell I want to), hostile zingers coming out of nowhere, the inability to focus, constantly missing targets and goals, and a poisonous and corrosive cynicism. An important point here: Work does not have the power to create chronic dysfunction and unhappiness. Only our personal lives can do that. Anyone who stays in a lousy, unsatisfying, and mean-spirited job, for an extended period of time, has the same thing at home.
So, what can you do, when you see any of these dysfunctional behaviours? First and foremost, don’t get tactical. It is insulting and patronizing to start telling people to just do some things differently and everything will be fine. It is equally insulting to tell people, directly or indirectly, that they have no reason to feel the way they do. Invalidating people’s feelings, at best, strengthens their resolve to act poorly; or, at worst, creates an escalating hostility, rage, and need for retribution.
Instead, give them feedback about two things: First, how their behaviour impacts you personally. Do not bring in any other people! (Literally or figuratively.) Keep it between you and them. (People stop listening and get more pissed off, when you depersonalize the feedback.) Second, tell them, in the simplest possible language, how their behaviour impacts your desire to have a relationship with them. For example, “When you put down everything we do here, and act like everyone is an idiot, other than you, I want to get away from you as quickly as possible.” Then the most important thing – a question: “Is that what you want to accomplish?”
This almost always leads to a dialogue, the focus of which is that the counter-productive behaviour under discussion is methodically destroying relationships that keep the person connected to the organization. I’ve never met a person who then can’t understand the logical extension of this relationship-killing behaviour. This, you may be thinking, sounds like a threat. That’s because it is. It is intended to begin a process of presenting the person with some tough choices, the first of which is whether he wants to start changing his behaviour, or leave the organization.
The next set of choices involves the person looking at the connections between his poor actions at work and his life outside of work. This is catalyzed by a challenging assignment – “I want you to think about why you act the way you do, and come back and let me know what you discovered. For the purposes of this first discussion, you can’t bring up anything about work. I’ll be glad to listen to suggestions about improving things around here, but only at a later date.”
The last key point. This assignment will typically lead to a discussion of a personal dilemma or problem. Your response is critical, and always in the form of a question: “What do you think your options are, and which one are you going to exercise?” Don’t ever answer the question – “What do you think I should do?” Once you do, you relieve the other person of any responsibility for managing their life; you participate in an informal adoption; and you lay the groundwork for litigation. My response for the last thirty years, has always been the same: “Beats me.”
By the way, up to this point, you have not violated any knee-jerk liberal law about employee privacy, nor are you in danger of the HR police coming after you. The “protected areas” are, ironically, irrelevant to the conundrums people create for themselves, and telling people what to do with their lives is about the most useless and counter-productive thing you can do.
I have had people ask me if this methodology is not tantamount to putting undo pressure on people who are already under immense pressure. My response is – absolutely! I call it, the “Kick’em When They’re Down” theory of change. People only change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of staying the same. The best time to initiate change is when the pain trajectory is on the upswing.
If you want to be genuinely helpful to people, the last thing you want to do, is remove the source of pain and discomfort in their life that is driving their dysfunction. You may feel a temporary sense of pride and beneficence, while they slide deeper into their self-destructive and illusory world.
Morrie
Posted in Articles, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , ,

April 2011

“Too Many Leaders Fail To Live Up To Their Potential, Because They
Stop Working On Themselves”
(Harvard Business Review, 2011)

This quote captures the essence of the seminar that I’ll be teaching this summer at the University of Montana. Its designed for experienced businesspeople and professionals who want to accelerate their own growth as well as the growth of their organizations. The premise of this learning experience is simple: The growth potential of all your relationships – with individuals, groups, or organizations – is capped by the self-imposed limits of your own personal growth. I learned, through my experiences as therapist, coach, and consultant, that I could take my clients not one step further than I had gone myself.

“The Leadership Challenge: Managing Yourself for Growth and Change”
June 10 – 12, 2011. Missoula, Montana

This is a great opportunity to dramatically expand your leadership skills and abilities while also enjoying a true Montana experience. We’re working with the owners of a very unique ranch (Dunrovin Ranch in Lolo, MT) to integrate an afternoon and evening experience at their property, with the seminar experience at the Business School. When you go to the seminar website, be sure, when you look at the “Seminar Schedule and Location,” to click on the link for “Dunrovin Ranch – Taste of Montana!” The ranch folks have put together some amazing adventures involving rafting (easy or very challenging); riding (tranquil or spectacular); and biking (thru mind-blowing vistas). These are all available to family, friends, etc. that may be coming with you.

To get to the seminar website, go to: www.business.umt.edu/leadership

You can register online at:
https://www.bber-secure.umt.edu/registerLC2011.asp.

If you want to know more about my background and read a testimonial go to:
http://www.business.umt.edu/DegreesPrograms/LeadershipChallenge/LeadershipChallengeInstructor.aspx.

The seminar is limited to 25 participants, so register early to reserve your spot.

“Picking Winners & Keepers” – Sign Up For The Next Class

The next class of our unique interactive learning experience focused on recruiting and selection, begins April 20th (and runs thru June 1st). The course features on-line self-study combined with instructor-led teleconferences, incorporating 1-on-1 accountability and coaching.
It is built around the material I’ve developed over thirty years of work with over a thousand organizations, and is a joint venture with Training Implementation Services, an equally experienced company which has, I believe the most effective and leading edge delivery system for training and developing our workforce. If you or any of your colleagues has ever made a hiring mistake, or struggled with ambivalence after an interview, this is the course for you.
If you want more information on the course or want to make sure you get in the April 20th session, contact John Stout. John is one of the principals of TIS and is our lead facilitator for the class. You can reach John at: john.stout@performancecounts.com

Now, for the newsletter –

Business: “Is Your Personal Life Screwing Up Your Business?”

On a recent flight, I had a most interesting conversation with my seatmate. (He had a fascinating job – costing out massive infrastructure projects all over the world. He had a unique take on the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East – that it would be a boon for Western countries because it would create billions of dollars of projects in underdeveloped countries.) We were discussing what each of us did, and at one point, he said, “Business can really screw up your personal life.” In my own inimical fashion, I heard myself saying, “No, you’ve got it backwards. Your personal life can really screw up your business.” He looked kind of quizzical and asked what I meant. I then had to quickly figure out what I did mean. (As I’ve said, on a number of occasions, I don’t plan what I say, very often. It’s almost always what I mean, but I figure it out after its released from my mouth.)

I don’t think, in the last thirty years, that I’ve seen a time in which so many people and so many relationships have melted down, and created crises in the workplace. Well, you might say, look at the economy for the last three years – that’s your answer. That may play a role, but I think that it’s far from the complete answer. I believe that the economy has been a catalyst for personal and interpersonal dysfunction, but not the fundamental cause. I see the economy serving the same role as alcohol for alcoholics. Liquor does not create addicts. Addicts abuse substances (or food, or sex, or people, ad infinitum) to dull their pain. The substance sparks the addiction and helps make it worse. So, I think, does the economy.
For some time now, I’ve become convinced that at least half the population is personally unhappy and unfulfilled, and has chosen personal, intimate relationships that are massive compromises. I don’t mean by this that the relationships are intrinsically bad and beyond hope. I mean that both parties, at some level, have decided that their relationship sucks less than not having one at all. This results in a decision, almost always unconscious, to lower their expectations, put up with what they don’t like or respect in their partner, and toss in the towel on ever getting their emotional (or, often, their physical) needs met. All the lousy economy does, is bring to the surface, serious, unattended to, personal and interpersonal issues that have been well camouflaged by better financial times. As we say in business, profits can hide a multitude of sins.
This shows up, in the workplace, as escalating irritability, passive-aggressive behavior (I’ll tell you what you want to hear, to your face, and then I’ll go off and do whatever the hell I want to), hostile zingers coming out of nowhere, the inability to focus, constantly missing targets and goals, and a poisonous and corrosive cynicism. An important point here: Work does not have the power to create chronic dysfunction and unhappiness. Only our personal lives can do that. Anyone who stays in a lousy, unsatisfying, and mean-spirited job, for an extended period of time, has the same thing at home.
So, what can you do, when you see any of these dysfunctional behaviours? First and foremost, don’t get tactical. It is insulting and patronizing to start telling people to just do some things differently and everything will be fine. It is equally insulting to tell people, directly or indirectly, that they have no reason to feel the way they do. Invalidating people’s feelings, at best, strengthens their resolve to act poorly; or, at worst, creates an escalating hostility, rage, and need for retribution.
Instead, give them feedback about two things: First, how their behaviour impacts you personally. Do not bring in any other people! (Literally or figuratively.) Keep it between you and them. (People stop listening and get more pissed off, when you depersonalize the feedback.) Second, tell them, in the simplest possible language, how their behaviour impacts your desire to have a relationship with them. For example, “When you put down everything we do here, and act like everyone is an idiot, other than you, I want to get away from you as quickly as possible.” Then the most important thing – a question: “Is that what you want to accomplish?”
This almost always leads to a dialogue, the focus of which is that the counter-productive behaviour under discussion is methodically destroying relationships that keep the person connected to the organization. I’ve never met a person who then can’t understand the logical extension of this relationship-killing behaviour. This, you may be thinking, sounds like a threat. That’s because it is. It is intended to begin a process of presenting the person with some tough choices, the first of which is whether he wants to start changing his behaviour, or leave the organization.
The next set of choices involves the person looking at the connections between his poor actions at work and his life outside of work. This is catalyzed by a challenging assignment – “I want you to think about why you act the way you do, and come back and let me know what you discovered. For the purposes of this first discussion, you can’t bring up anything about work. I’ll be glad to listen to suggestions about improving things around here, but only at a later date.”
The last key point. This assignment will typically lead to a discussion of a personal dilemma or problem. Your response is critical, and always in the form of a question: “What do you think your options are, and which one are you going to exercise?” Don’t ever answer the question – “What do you think I should do?” Once you do, you relieve the other person of any responsibility for managing their life; you participate in an informal adoption; and you lay the groundwork for litigation. My response for the last thirty years, has always been the same: “Beats me.”
By the way, up to this point, you have not violated any knee-jerk liberal law about employee privacy, nor are you in danger of the HR police coming after you. The “protected areas” are, ironically, irrelevant to the conundrums people create for themselves, and telling people what to do with their lives is about the most useless and counter-productive thing you can do.
I have had people ask me if this methodology is not tantamount to putting undo pressure on people who are already under immense pressure. My response is – absolutely! I call it, the “Kick’em When They’re Down” theory of change. People only change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of staying the same. The best time to initiate change is when the pain trajectory is on the upswing.
If you want to be genuinely helpful to people, the last thing you want to do, is remove the source of pain and discomfort in their life that is driving their dysfunction. You may feel a temporary sense of pride and beneficence, while they slide deeper into their self-destructive and illusory world.

Political/Cultural: “The Arrogance of the Poor: Entitlement and the Lack of
Perspective”

Most nights Arleah and I watch the news on three different outlets. At 7:00 we watch PBS, at 8:00 we watch CNN, and at 9:00 we watch FOX News. All three have guest “commentators” supposedly representing a continuum or spectrum of political ideologies. PBS’s commentators run the gamut from far left to moderately left; CNN’s from moderately left to slightly right of center; and FOX News’ from far right to moderately right. If a ringer accidentally gets booked, who actually represents a legitimately contrarian point of view, they get patronized and co-opted, or just talked over. The differing perspectives, on the three networks, are fascinating; and some nights we wonder if all these commentators live on the same planet.

A few weeks ago, PBS devoted part of their broadcast to an examination of the ‘income gap” in America – a fresh and unique topic. They had the usual lead-in reciting the gargantuan compensation CEO’s and the piddling salaries of “working people,” as well as the obligatory “studies” showing how the gap has grown to “obscene” proportions.
What was most interesting was a montage of mini-interviews with four people, all at the wrong end of the gap, struggling to get by. One was a social worker who worked with displaced and poor people; one was a security guard who had worked previously at a higher paying position; one was a single mother with three young children; and one was a former middle manager, now unemployed.
The social worker, by her own admission, making “good money,” combining both her and her husband’s income, complained about how the two of them were just barely getting by, and could not do a lot of the things they’d like to do. The security guard, very bitterly, ranted about guarding the building of some “rich guy” who (he strongly inferred) got the building at the expense of some not so rich folks. The single mom whined about being stuck with a small apartment, saddled with taking care of three small kids, and therefore, unable to get ahead in her life. The unemployed middle manager was the angriest and most vociferous, venting her spleen about the nearly $200,000 she had spent on her undergraduate and graduate education, just to find herself unemployed.
For me, this was one of those yelling at the television occasions. The financial correspondent for PBS raised nary a question of any of the four. (I don’t know why I thought he would.) He didn’t ask the social worker why she didn’t choose to do something else, if she wanted to make more money. (I have never understood, or had much patience with people who choose work that everyone on the planet knows doesn’t pay much, and then complain bitterly about just scrapping by, and how awfully unfair it is.) He didn’t ask the security guard why he thought that some people end up owning buildings, and some people end up guarding them. (I have no doubt that he subscribes to the mythological belief that the angel of money anoints some people and passes over others.) He didn’t ask the single mother if she ever had any reservations or any hesitations, about having three illegitimate children. (I know it’s not politically correct, but he also didn’t ask her why she was a hundred pounds overweight, and the effect that that choice would have on her and her children’s future possibilities. I know that poor people eat a lot of junk, but there’s a limit to what Sugar Pops can do to you.) And finally, he didn’t ask the former middle manager a number of pertinent questions, like – “Why did you think that getting some college degrees would guarantee you a job? Or, “Why do you think you got fired and other middle managers are still employed?
The sense of entitlement that these four individuals had is infuriating. It was clear that each of these people felt that it was their right to have enough money to do whatever they wanted to do. It was their right to own what rich, successful people own. It was their right to avoid any consequence for bad decision-making earlier in life. And finally, it was their right to have a guaranteed job simply because they jumped through some socially acceptable hoops.
The fundamental reason that has spawned this outrageous sense of entitlement is the notion, rapidly becoming an integral facet of our cultural zeitgeist, that things should be easy. It’s the belief that if something is hard, demanding, and even exceedingly difficult, something is terribly wrong; and even worse, they’re obviously getting screwed. If I hear one more person in the Obama administration, whine about the terrible burden of student loans, or the right that everyone has to go to college, I’m going to seriously consider going into politics. I know lots and lots of people who borrowed (and paid back) enormous amounts of money, to make it possible for them to go to college. None of them (including many from poor, minority backgrounds) have been psychically scarred or economically disadvantaged for life. And I know an equal number of highly successful people who never went to college (some never finished high school) who have had great careers and great lives. As with all caretaking concepts, the idea of making things easy is, at its core, another form of racism. It posits an inferior, incapable individual who lacks the capacity to rise to challenges, and to learn and grow from their difficult experiences. With very few exceptions, everyone has the resources to surmount the difficulties they encounter; but they will never know what they are, as long as we make things easy for them. I have never worked with a successful person who does not attribute their very success to the hard things they had to work through and master.
The other thing that really angers me about the arrogance of the poor is the simple lack of gratitude for what they do have. It is very unfortunate and undermining of our culture that we are amongst the least traveled first world people. Most Americans are clueless about how the rest of the world lives (and dies). The majority of the citizens of the rest of this planet, with the exception of a handful of countries, would kill to be poor in America.
In addition to having chosen a career that has taken me to numerous places on our globe, I had an even greater gift. I grew up with immigrant grandparents. They came to this country with nothing. No money, no possessions, no knowledge of the language, and nothing to smooth their way into a culture they were ill-prepared to deal with. They got regularly ripped off, exploited, abused, and worked like slaves. And every day of their lives, they thanked God that they were in America.
I have great empathy for people born into poverty, abuse, and ignorance. I have none for people who stay there. It is sad that the idea of American exceptionalism has become a cliché, because it has led to most people not knowing what it actually means. We are an exceptional people because of our fierce commitment to choice. No where else in this world do people have the choices we have. Some time it’s difficult to exercise those choices, but it is never impossible. Maintaining those choices is the quintessential challenge of our time.

Personal: “Losing a Parent: The Death Before the Death”

I have written a few times about my mother’s deteriorating health and the impact on our relationship. I’ve discussed the changes in her, from a vibrant, curious, somewhat argumentative person, to a passive, non-communicative, almost obsequious individual. The transformation has been stark, and deeply saddening, but there has always been a ray of hope, when she would suddenly come alive, and really engage us in a true interaction. Those moments, admittedly, were few and far between, but they stoked our hope that, at some level, she was still there. That hope has now vanished. She is now gone. Her body remains, but her soul has departed.

About two weeks ago, when Arleah and I went to see her, we found her in bed, in a catatonic-like state. She looked like she had had a stroke, or something of that magnitude. We tried to talk with her, but to no avail. She literally could not speak, and could barely move her head, back and forth. We thought, initially, that she was indicating “no” to some of our questions, by shaking her head, but it soon became apparent that there was no connection between her head movements and our questions. In addition, it was soon clear that anything we said didn’t register, or if it seemed to, there was a delay of 10 to 15 seconds. It is still hard to describe exactly what she was like. Both Arleah and I have been around stroke victims, and they can still communicate, if only with eye movements and a slight nodding. Her head movements were the kind of thing you do when you’re alone, and saying to yourself, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
In subsequent days, she was thoroughly evaluated at the hospital, and cleared of any stroke involvement or concussion (she had fallen three times in the prior week and had some nasty bruises). She had tested positive for a urinary tract infection, and some of the nursing staff (and one of the doctors) was attributing her lack of any responsiveness to that infection. (She has subsequently recovered from the UTI, and is still non-communicative.)
My mother has always been a proud woman. She took crap from no one, was fiercely independent, and had an opinion about everything. As she entered her 80’s (she’s almost 92), she opened up considerably about her feelings about her life, and the big decisions she had made. It was the first time, in my life, that I saw her express regret about some things she had done (and not done). In every one of those conversations she made it clear that she did not, in her words, want to live like a “vegetable.” She said to us, directly, that if she got to the point where all she was capable of, was eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom, she wanted us to “pull the plug.” She added that if we didn’t, she would. I think she’s pulled the plug; in the only way she can now.
At this point, I have an extraordinary mixture of feelings. I am deeply, deeply saddened. The woman I see at the nursing facility bears no resemblance to the woman I grew up with. She doesn’t look like her and certainly doesn’t act like her. I find myself longing for those pointless political arguments we would have; and the stories about her “great” friends who never came to visit her.
I’m also angry; at times furious about her leaving without at least saying goodbye. I want to talk with her about the amazing life she had; about what I learned from her; about her grandchildren; about my father and the great life they had together. Instead, all I get is a mindless smile, signifying nothing. She’s like an infant now, but without the hope and the promise of things to come.
As Arleah says, all that’s left now is to sit with her, and hold her hand.
Morrie
Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

High Accountability of Micromanagement

With superheated competition and a comprehensive examination of everyone and everything in business, these days, the question often asked me is: “How do I know when I’m being a high accountability, very effective manager; or being a micromanaging harasser?” In fact, I just had a conversation about this today, with a good friend and client, Jim Tierney.

Let me answer it this way. Everything of any importance deserves to be monitored. The only question, is how? The high accountability manager, in concert with direct reports, sets specific dates and times for assessing progress on work toward the accomplishment of certain goals. In addition, it is made quite clear, that it is the responsibility of the worker being held accountable, to notify the manager, immediately, of any circumstance that has occurred, that could interfere with the timelines that have been established. It is not the manager’s job to be poking around in anticipation of a failure to achieve results. This poking around, and “checking up,” outside of previously established monitoring meetings, is what I define as micromanagement. (Another good friend and client – Damon Shelly – introduced me to the term “pester management,” which really captures the essence of micromanagement.) It is low trust, disabling, and depreciating. It is assumed, also, that clear consequences for the achievement, or lack of such, have been articulated and understood, by both parties.

Micromanagers do unto others, what was done to them. As soon as the possibility of failing at something looms on the horizon, they are drawn to pestering and harassing, like addicts to meth. The low trust they grew up with kicks in, and it becomes next to impossible to let others struggle, fail, and ultimately, learn. It is important to realize, that micromanagement is the purest form of unlearning. If you want to avoid it, look hard at how you view failing at something, and see what it means to you. Is it an opportunity to learn something new (albeit not a fun experience); or a complete condemnation of who you are as a person? Discovering the answer to this, will prove a lot more fruitful than applying some hackneyed tactics.

Posted in Articles, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

February 2011

The twenty-four hour news cycle initiated by cable television, has tended to trivialize the notion of “history in the making.” But these last two weeks have truly brought life to the concept. Both in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as here in the U.S., history is being made.

The fall of brutal, dictatorial regimes in the Arab world is certainly significant, but it is nothing more than the tip of the cultural iceberg. What is going on is the two-fold beginning of the most fundamental changes in Arab society and Islam, in hundreds of years. What we are witnessing is the dismantling and rejection of tribalism (and its political counterpart), and the long-postponed reformation of Islam. This is not a groundswell, from the populace of these countries, for democracy, Western style, or otherwise. The biggest mistake we can make is to expect some magical transformation, or even transition, to an open, truly free political playing field. What we will undoubtedly see, is a succession of less brutal, less autocratic rulers. Arleah and I saw this when we were in Russia as the Soviet Union ended. Everyone we talked with had the same answer to the question we asked them, about their expectations of the next political system. No one, and I mean absolutely no one, had any interest in a democracy. Everyone we talked with was glad to be through with Communism. What they wanted, without exception, was a Czar. A “nice Czar,’ but a Czar for sure.

The participation, and in some cases, the prominent role played by women, in the various rebellions, is the clearest sign that Orthodox Islam is under assault and is beginning to be dismembered. From my perspective, this is the most optimistic and encouraging aspect of the revolutions underway in the Middle East and North Africa. Islam is the last major religion to undergo a reformation, and it can’t happen fast enough. Unreformed Islam has fed (and continues to feed) our contemporary world-wide reign of terror, and no military or political interventions will quell it. A reformation of Islam has the only true chance.

At home, the tumult in a number of state legislatures signals the beginning of the end of the entitlement state. The bizarre wage inflation, the nutty pension benefits, and the tyranny of low-risk unions, is seeing its sunset. Beginning in the 1960’s we started paying people obscene amounts of money for doing pedestrian work; providing them with equally obscene sinecures for doing nothing (often while they were in their 50’s); and bowed to state-endorsed extortion in “labor negotiations.” To use the popular phrase of the day – “the chickens have come home to roost.” All but two states are financially untenable, and a bunch of those are teetering on bankruptcy. Our state legislators have made drunken sailors look like responsible citizens. Every state may not win this round, but you can take it to the bank, that the old deal is over. The New, New Deal will realign relationships between “labor” and “management” and reinstitute the role of risk-takers in rebuilding the economy.
________________________________________

Business Tips

“High Accountability or Micromanagement”

With superheated competition and a comprehensive examination of everyone and everything in business, these days, the question often asked me is: “How do I know when I’m being a high accountability, very effective manager; or being a micromanaging harasser?” In fact, I just had a conversation about this today, with a good friend and client, Jim Tierney.

Let me answer it this way. Everything of any importance deserves to be monitored. The only question, is how? The high accountability manager, in concert with direct reports, sets specific dates and times for assessing progress on work toward the accomplishment of certain goals. In addition, it is made quite clear, that it is the responsibility of the worker being held accountable, to notify the manager, immediately, of any circumstance that has occurred, that could interfere with the timelines that have been established. It is not the manager’s job to be poking around in anticipation of a failure to achieve results. This poking around, and “checking up,” outside of previously established monitoring meetings, is what I define as micromanagement. (Another good friend and client – Damon Shelly – introduced me to the term “pester management,” which really captures the essence of micromanagement.) It is low trust, disabling, and depreciating. It is assumed, also, that clear consequences for the achievement, or lack of such, have been articulated and understood, by both parties.

Micromanagers do unto others, what was done to them. As soon as the possibility of failing at something looms on the horizon, they are drawn to pestering and harassing, like addicts to meth. The low trust they grew up with kicks in, and it becomes next to impossible to let others struggle, fail, and ultimately, learn. It is important to realize, that micromanagement is the purest form of unlearning. If you want to avoid it, look hard at how you view failing at something, and see what it means to you. Is it an opportunity to learn something new (albeit not a fun experience); or a complete condemnation of who you are as a person? Discovering the answer to this, will prove a lot more fruitful than applying some hackneyed tactics.

________________________________________

Political and Cultural Observations

“The Limits of Tolerance: Somali Pirates”

There is no doubt that our society (and most of Western Europe) has become, over the last four to five decades, exceedingly more tolerant of a myriad of differences within our population. Most institutional racial, ethnic, and religious barriers have fallen, and we seem to be well on our way to diluting, if not eliminating, the hysteria surrounding our reactions to gay folks. I’m old enough to remember when the only shows (and commercials) on television, featured white guys with close-cropped hair, and white women who all looked like they just won the bake-off at the county fair. I now work regularly with Black executives and senior managers, women entrepreneurs and business owners, and management teams that look like a general session of the U.N. I have worked with, in the last few years, senior leadership teams in which white American males represent under 10% of the team.

Unfortunately, as in most cultural shifts, we have bounced from one extreme to the other. Tolerance has slid into license. We now have whole organizations, as well as media outlets, seemingly devoted to justifying anti-social, overtly hostile, and clearly criminal behavior, on the grounds of tolerance and inclusiveness. Any attempts to criticize formerly unacceptable behavior, is immediately met with accusations of racism, bigotry, or xenophobia. We have almost completely lost our ability to set limits and boundaries for acceptable social, political, or economic interactions, and we put up with rude, obnoxious and assaultive behavior that no civilized society should tolerate. We have, interestingly, reached the point, where the Chancellor of the arguably most successful country in Europe, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain, have pronounced “multi-culturalism” an abject failure.

This slide into license and this acceptance of the unacceptable, has reached its zenith, for me, in the worldwide tolerance of Somali piracy. A few nights ago, on one of the news channels we watch, we saw an interview with an international “expert” of some sort. About halfway through his interview, he made reference to the “business proposition” of the pirates (a weird term to be using in the 21st century – makes it sound like they’re just a group of refugees from Disney World out for a good time). The “business proposition” he was referring to, was of course, the seizing of ships and the holding of hostages for millions of dollars in ransom. Arleah and I looked at each other in disbelief. Did he actually just characterize extortion and kidnapping as a “business proposition?” Yep, he did.

Our government, and every civilized society on this planet, should be ashamed of itself. Currently, these vermin hold thirty vessels and 700 people hostage, under threat of death, and have now murdered four innocent people. And our response has been tepid, State Department whining.

So what should we do?

We should issue the following ultimatum to the pirate leaders:

“You have forty-eight hours within which to release every vessel you occupy. If you fail to do so, or you harm or kill any hostages, you will be hunted down and killed; the villages you come from will be obliterated; and the people who launder your ransom money will be tried as terrorists and war criminals.”

This may seem rather harsh. I have had this debate with people who view this option as lowering ourselves to the same level as the pirates. I categorically reject this analogy. This is what civilized, humane societies have done, and better be prepared to do, to uncivilized, inhumane societies. We did not end the Holocaust by negotiating with the Gestapo.
________________________________________

Personal Notes

“Me and ‘The King’s Speech’”

“The King’s Speech” moved me in a way that few movies have. Other than “The Notebook” and “Sophie’s Choice,” I have not been as deeply touched by a motion picture.

A lot of people who have seen the picture, talk about the courage and struggle of the King George character. And he undoubtedly conquered much – primarily his own fears and pride – and exhibited, ultimately, an extraordinary bravery. But for me, the King’s “speech therapist,” struck the most resonant chord, and triggered the most powerful feelings.

I was not trained as a psychiatrist, and, consequently, I do not have an M.D. I went through an M.S.W. program and was lucky enough to study with two exceptional psychotherapists – James Forkeotas and Ord Matek – both of whom were geniuses in understanding and practicing psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Also, by that time, I had been in my own therapy for a couple of years, with Robert Mungerson, an M.S.W. himself. I have mentioned Mungerson before. He had an extra-human intuition that, at first, scared the hell out of me, but that ultimately taught me to trust my own, and clearly laid the foundation for the success I’ve had over the past thirty years. Mungerson knew what you were struggling with, where the struggles came from, where you were stuck, and what you needed to deal with; all, in seconds. The only other person I know, who has that finely tuned intuitive ability, is Arleah. She doesn’t “read” people – she locks in on them, merges with their innermost feelings, and gives them a reading on their emotional life that is unerringly accurate, unexpected, and a bit stunning. She is so good at it, that she now does it over the phone and through the internet.

So, by the time I finished my M.S.W., I was ready to practice psychotherapy. I had been a college teacher for five years, in my former field (cultural history and literature) and I already had worked with some private clients in my last year of schooling (which got some faculty in the program near hysteria).

Unfortunately, in 1972, the private practice of psychotherapy was tightly controlled by a coalition of psychiatrists (M.D.’s) and traditional social workers (with some participation by Ph.D. psychologists, who were fighting their own battles with insurance companies), and they had set up a system which required new graduates (and experienced practitioners) to be “supervised” by experienced social workers, in institutional settings, for a number of years. In addition, if you could put up with this arrangement – demeaning and pointless as it was – and you still wanted to go into private practice, you could only do so, with the profession’s imprimatur, by having an “experienced” social worker, or a psychiatrist, regularly “consult” with you (at, of course, their regular professional fees).

As I write about this, I’m struck by how medieval it sounds, particularly in light of the thousands of M.S.W.’s (and other non-medical therapists) now in private practice. It was nothing more than indentured servitude and a way for professional toadies to keep control of the profession and feed their impaired self-esteem by continuing to suck-up to the psychiatric establishment. (In some kind of irony, later in my career, I trained psychiatrists in psychotherapy, since that’s the weakest part of their education.)

As you can imagine, I rejected this path, and set up my practice as soon as I graduated. Numerous attempts were made to try and put me out of business, including the profession’s lobbying of the Illinois legislature to get title protection and licensing of social workers. None of them succeeded; I always found a way around them. The most bizarre thing of all was the effort, on the part of two faculty members, to try and prevent me from being hired by a community mental health center. They were so threatened by what I was doing, that they wrote unsolicited, negative letters to the director, strongly advising her not to hire me.

This was a truly strange time. Part of me was energized by the battle; part of me was getting a bit too much out of the neurotic struggle with rigid, scared people (something I knew well from my early life), and part of me was deeply hurt and puzzled. I was good at what I was doing; I had people who wanted to work with me; and yet, there were others who wanted to take it all away.

I had some allies during this period. One in particular, Gene Trager, was a rebellious psychiatrist who was unimpressed by credentials and formal education (including his own). Gene had studied under Thomas Szasz, the father of radical psychiatry in the U.S. Gene believed in me, valued my clinical skills, and shared my disdain for psychiatric labels and the patronizing attitude of the mental health bureaucracy toward both non-medical therapists and their clients. (If one of our patients in the hospital wanted to be medicated, Gene would sit down with them, hand them the PDR, and ask them to read through the relevant section, and then tell him what medication they thought would be most helpful, and have the least deleterious side-effects. It always caused uproar amongst our colleagues. Gene and I had a saying – “You may be crazy, but you aren’t stupid.”)

Gene’s help in nurturing my career was invaluable, and he went so far as to convince a well-known private psychiatric hospital to extend admitting privileges to me – something that had never happened before.

You can see why King George’s faith and belief in Lionel, touched me so deeply.

One other aspect of their relationship profoundly impacted me. I made a decision, very early in my career (probably very early in my life) that I owed it to my client to always tell them the truth – to tell them what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. Part of this commitment was to make it absolutely clear that working with me would involve very hard, sometimes painful, and occasionally gut-wrenching work; and that if that was not something they were willing to do, they should work with someone else.

During the course of my professional life, as therapist and consultant, I have told some very powerful, very wealthy, and very influential people, things about themselves that they did not like to hear. Most found it helpful, hung in there, and developed very gratifying and mutually enlightening relationships with me. A few told me to buzz off and not come back.

When I saw Lionel confronting the King of England, I was moved to tears. I know what that feels like, and I know how scary that is, and what courage that takes.

When I have those moments of doubt about how much I’ve accomplished, it’s going to be comforting to think about that ballsy Aussie and the King of England.

Morrie

Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

“Recruiting Is Back”

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the gains realized from the additional productivity of the post-meltdown workforce have been maxed-out. In addition, the culture as a whole has begun to adapt to a smaller and less acquisitive lifestyle and, consequently, the consumer is coming out of the closet, albeit somewhat battered and traumatized, but ready to risk spending again. The combination of these forces is creating a demand for more workers, and for better run, more efficient, more focused, and more competitive businesses. As you look to add more people to your organization, keep the following in mind:

> You will need to recruit people who are capable of doing more than working hard, following orders, and being loyal, in the traditional sense.

> You will need to identify people who like to learn; who are attracted to growth; and who are willing to be developed, personally and professionally.

> Your assessment process will need to be radically transformed and re-done. It will need to focus on who the candidates are; not simply what they’ve done.

> The fulcrum of this new process is the “Deep Dive” interview that zeros in on feeling data, not task data.

> The “Deep Dive” interview is designed to be highly interactive, rich with real-time feedback, challenging, and uncomfortable.

> There will be plenty of people to interview. Most of them will not interest you, primarily because they ceased to interest their former employers.

> We are now living in an “American Idolized” culture. Everyone is a performer and has developed the ability to look good and have the “right” answers. If you don’t drill down, you’ll get snookered (no pun intended).

> You are now interviewing for values match and for specific personal characteristics.

> The traditional behavioral interview, as well as standardized testing, is of very limited value. They lack the challenge, the feedback, and the evocation of bottom-line feelings that give you the data you need to make a decision.

> Don’t tolerate being stonewalled. If most of the answers to your questions are “conversation killers” (monosyllabic, short, clipped responses), confront it right away. Either it changes, or the interview is over.

> Don’t ask open-ended questions. It rewards wandering and undermines your credibility.

> No note-taking during an interview. Neither you nor the candidate. Write down your strongest impressions after the candidate leaves. If you don’t remember anything significant, you either have your answer, or you’re struggling with early dementia.

> Don’t ever let “throw-away” remarks go (i.e. “You know how bosses are …”). They always represent a statement about one’s core values.

> Don’t sell the opportunity. Your style of interviewing should either compel or repel the candidate. Either way, you both win.

> Pay a lot of attention to whether or not the candidate answers the questions you asked. If not, deal with it right there.

> Conducting an interview is like riding an emotional roller coaster. Pay attention to your tummy. Were there more ups or more downs?

> Know your own triggers. What kind of response is likely to cause you to overreact and reach a conclusion that has more to do with you than with the candidate?

> Risk early. Nothing creates trust quicker than honest feelings and feedback from the interviewer, right from the start.

Posted in Articles, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

January 2011

The New Year starts out, for me, with a number of new ventures and adventures. As many of you are already aware, I recently completed a unique learning project with two friends and colleagues – Frank Sarr and John Stout. Frank and John are the two principals of Training Implementation Services, in Granby, CT. Frank has developed a training delivery system which, I believe, will become, in fairly short order, the dominant learning technology in information driven cultures. It employs the internet, without a mind numbing webinar. It employs interactive, personal coaching, without the expense and interruptions of the traditional model. And most significantly, from my perspective, it is built on the overriding premise that training and learning is only of value if it is usable and actually used by the learner. TIS insures this through the use of their certification session – a one-on-one telephonic interaction that requires the learner to organize and prioritize the salient material and demonstrate its utility in their real-life professional roles.

My first partnership with TIS has revolved around the material I’ve developed on recruiting and selection. In particular, it focuses on identifying people who have the greatest chance of bringing value to 21st century enterprises, and on an interviewing methodology that zeros in on who the candidate is, and not simply what they’ve done. This “deep dive” interview eliminates ambivalence and leaves both interviewer and candidate with a certainty about their decisions.

The program is called “Picking Winners and Keepers” and is six weeks in length. The only things that are scheduled are the four coaching calls and the certification session. No one has to travel anywhere, and all that the participants need is a computer and a phone. Frank, John, and myself (along with TIS’s amazing instructional designers) worked on the program for the greater part of last year, and I’m very proud of the finished product. The following links will take you to a brief video summary of the program and give you details on how to sign up for it:

http://performancecounts.com/pickingwinners/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m73udgWThaM

The other venture has an element of déjà vu about it. I’ve established a relationship with the MBA program at the University of Montana and have become a member of the adjunct faculty. (My first real “job”, forty-four years ago, was as a college teacher at Drake University.) I’ve already taught one course and enjoyed it thoroughly. In addition, I’m working with the Business School to expand its offerings in executive education. We’ve designed a unique experience for the summer of 2011 (mid-June) that will involve a heavy-duty, interactive learning component (facilitated by yours truly) and an immersion in Montana’s fantastic recreational opportunities (riding, rafting, fly-fishing, hiking, and exploring the area.) We’ll be using the facilities of the University, as well as those of a nearby ranch.

The program is designed for people with real-life work experience (3-5 years, minimum), preferably in a managerial or executive role, who want to significantly raise the bar and take their career to the next level. This will not be your typical continuing education course. You will learn how to become an exceptional leader, in your own life, and in the lives of those around you. As soon as all the details are nailed down, I’ll get them to you.

The third initiative for the year is a new book. I’m very pleased to be collaborating with a great friend and colleague – Scott Martineau – on a provocative, no BS, work that will clear out the clutter and nonsense surrounding the prevailing “wisdom” of how people achieve success. Scott is an experienced business person, a coach and mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs, a bestselling author (of “The Power of You”), and the founder and CEO of ConsciousOne.com, one of the best and largest personal growth and development websites in the world.

The premise of the book is simple and straightforward: The only thing that is going to cure the economic malaise we find ourselves in is an infusion and proliferation of entrepreneurial, highly successful business people. Government, at all levels, is clueless. Intellectuals have no experience at running any real world enterprise. And traditional corporate types are freaked out by the unpredictability and ubiquitous instability of the new global economy. The problem, however, is that the information about how to become successful is riddled with nonsense, mythology, and 30,000 foot slogans that no one knows how to implement.

The book is tentatively titled, “The Ten Great Lies of Success”, and is focused on those myths that derail people the most and do the greatest damage. I’ll keep you in the loop as the book takes shape and reaches fruition.

“Resist The Urge To Be Ordinary”
Anonymous

As I indicated in last November’s newsletter, all the sections of this year’s newsletter will be shorter. A whole myriad of reasons dictates this: Feedback from readers; my involvement in a number of new ventures (detailed above); and my frustration at giving away long and exhaustive chunks of intellectual property for nothing. When I figure out how to monetize the latter (and get more comfortable with the new ventures), I may return to the old format.
________________________________________

Business Tips

“Recruiting Is Back”

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that the gains realized from the additional productivity of the post-meltdown workforce have been maxed-out. In addition, the culture as a whole has begun to adapt to a smaller and less acquisitive lifestyle and, consequently, the consumer is coming out of the closet, albeit somewhat battered and traumatized, but ready to risk spending again. The combination of these forces is creating a demand for more workers, and for better run, more efficient, more focused, and more competitive businesses. As you look to add more people to your organization, keep the following in mind:

> You will need to recruit people who are capable of doing more than working hard, following orders, and being loyal, in the traditional sense.
> You will need to identify people who like to learn; who are attracted to growth; and who are willing to be developed, personally and professionally.
> Your assessment process will need to be radically transformed and re-done. It will need to focus on who the candidates are; not simply what they’ve done.
> The fulcrum of this new process is the “Deep Dive” interview that zeros in on feeling data, not task data.
> The “Deep Dive” interview is designed to be highly interactive, rich with real-time feedback, challenging, and uncomfortable.
> There will be plenty of people to interview. Most of them will not interest you, primarily because they ceased to interest their former employers.
> We are now living in an “American Idolized” culture. Everyone is a performer and has developed the ability to look good and have the “right” answers. If you don’t drill down, you’ll get snookered (no pun intended).
> You are now interviewing for values match and for specific personal characteristics.
> The traditional behavioral interview, as well as standardized testing, is of very limited value. They lack the challenge, the feedback, and the evocation of bottom-line feelings that give you the data you need to make a decision.
> Don’t tolerate being stonewalled. If most of the answers to your questions are “conversation killers” (monosyllabic, short, clipped responses), confront it right away. Either it changes, or the interview is over.
> Don’t ask open-ended questions. It rewards wandering and undermines your credibility.
> No note-taking during an interview. Neither you nor the candidate. Write down your strongest impressions after the candidate leaves. If you don’t remember anything significant, you either have your answer, or you’re struggling with early dementia.
> Don’t ever let “throw-away” remarks go (i.e. “You know how bosses are …”). They always represent a statement about one’s core values.
> Don’t sell the opportunity. Your style of interviewing should either compel or repel the candidate. Either way, you both win.
> Pay a lot of attention to whether or not the candidate answers the questions you asked. If not, deal with it right there.
> Conducting an interview is like riding an emotional roller coaster. Pay attention to your tummy. Were there more ups or more downs?
> Know your own triggers. What kind of response is likely to cause you to overreact and reach a conclusion that has more to do with you than with the candidate?
> Risk early. Nothing creates trust quicker than honest feelings and feedback from the interviewer, right from the start.
________________________________________

Political and Cultural Observations

“The Tragedy In Tucson”

The horrendous shooting in Arizona brought out the usual cries for pre-emptive detention and gun control. What was interesting to me, was the muted tone of the ideological and political debate, and the quite heated (and, at times, hysterical) quality of the blame-game around who incited a demented lunatic to murder innocent people who were in the wrong place at the worst possible time.

I think, in fact, the blame-game surrounding the killer’s motivation was a convenient distraction from a very troubling issue which has been crystallized by the debate over Obamacare. The debate is making it clearer and clearer that Federal intervention and centralized “solutions” to societal problems come at a very high price – the least of which is financial. What is dawning on people is the realization that the overriding question is not, can we provide healthcare (or other “solutions” to human needs and problems) to everyone; but, what’s the cost, non-monetarily, of doing so? It is sobering and stunning to realize that we have reached the point, in our political evolution, wherein the Federal government has subsumed the right and the power to force individuals to buy something they may or may not want or need. This is the quintessential example of the expansion of rights to one group, coming at the expense of other groups. This is the slipperiest of slopes, and has rarely, if ever, led to a salutary outcome.

Pain and madness come with freedom. For some reason, unbeknownst to me, this is still news to many folks. There was, and there is, absolutely no way of preventing the Loughner’s of the world from wantonly killing and maiming perfectly innocent people – without destroying the very freedoms that underpin and distinguish our culture. One of the hallmarks of our society is the privilege and ability to think, speak, and act as bizarrely and crazily as you like, as long as you fail to breach the criminal code. Most Americans are unaware of how unique this is to our country, and are often surprised to hear that one of our fellow Western democracies (like the UK) has banned someone from entering the country, or detained someone within the country, for fear of what they’ve said, or could say.

Early in my clinical career, I (along with a number of other therapists) fought to re-write the involuntary commitment laws. Up until that point, the mental health bureaucracy and the “mental hospitals” were nothing more than extensions of the criminal justice system, without the benefit of constitutional protections against false imprisonment. You could be committed with the flimsiest of “evidence” and you could be kept there for a very long time. All it took was for you to act sufficiently disturbing and upset the people around you. So when people ask why Loughner was not detained and “treated”, they have no idea of the implications of what they’re suggesting, and what a nightmarish Pandora’s box they’d be opening, again.

One more point about pain and freedom. If you’ve encountered and dealt with madness, as I have in my clinical career and my extensive travels, you learn something early on. It is irrelevant, to a madman, what instruments of violence are available. If we’ve learned anything from Islamo-Facist Terrorists, we’ve seen that as soon as we cut off access to one instrument of terrorism and violence, they create another one. If Loughner had no access to a handgun, he would have stabbed people. If he couldn’t get a knife (or it wouldn’t allow him to do as much damage as he planned), he’d strap dynamite to his body, and on and on and on.

What we are left grappling with is the elemental and primal question of our time. Is freedom the most important value of our culture; and is it worth the pain and madness that can accompany it? This is the question we all need to answer.
________________________________________

Personal Notes

“What Happened To Deep Introspection?”

As I get older, I’m aware of experiencing nostalgia; but not for the typical things that I hear my peers talk about. I have no desire to live in the way I did growing up. Living with 50 relatives around all the time was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t miss Chicago, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, or England. I learned a lot in those places, but no place felt like home, until we got to Montana. And as much as I bitch and complain about technology, I love how it’s enhanced my life. Every time I get in my car, I am blown away by what a kick it is to drive and work everything it does. I am additionally, acutely aware, that without the airline industry (with whom I have a classical love-hate relationship), I would not have had the career I have loved and valued for the past three decades.

What I do miss is how people work on themselves, these days. When Arleah and I were getting our psychotherapy training and beginning our practices, most of the people we knew, personally and professionally, were in some form of therapy. And of those people, it was rare for anyone to be seeing their therapist less than once a week. Many people had twice weekly sessions, and a number of colleagues and friends were in four days a week psychoanalysis. When I decided that I had gained everything I was going to get from my psychoanalytic therapy and moved on to Primal Therapy, I would go to two or three groups a week, when I was not traveling. (Primal utilized an atypical model, involving scheduled groups that allow you to work on issues in a self-regulating manner.)

Frequency, though, is not the fundamental difference that I miss. What has most significantly changed is the role that personal work, growth, and development plays in people’s lives, and the depth to which it is pursued. The culture we grew up in, at work and at home, was certainly concerned with results and goals; but clearly in a secondary role. What people talked about and shared a lot, was their journey – what they were learning about themselves, their interpersonal history, and how their past was shaping and influencing their present and their future. We had the time and the opportunity to do this – we lived in a much less competitive culture, and we had profoundly less information to manage and impact us. We wanted to accomplish things and get somewhere in our lives, but the assumption we operated on, was quite different than now. Our goals didn’t have to be met tomorrow, and they would be met best, if we thoroughly understood how and why we were getting there.

The internet, specifically, and the explosion of information, generally, changed everything. They have created superheated competition, a busier and more demanding personal life (often more frenetic), and a bottom-line orientation to all facets of our lives. I don’t particularly bemoan or resent this. I like aspects of it, and I find other parts of it emotionally empty and without meaning. But be that as it may, it has changed our personal and professional lives.

By and large, the people that Arleah and I work with want to know what to do differently. They are not terribly interested in why they currently do what they do, and what internal obstacles they face in making needed changes. It is a fair and reasonable question, and we can certainly answer it. For most of them, the answer will help them, and will make some changes in their work and personal lives. Will it make all the changes it could, and at a very deep level? Probably not. But that’s our issue, not theirs.

Both Arleah and I have made some significant adaptations to our “bottom-line” culture. As Arleah puts it, we have shifted from a society of human beings, to a society of human doings. At times, we have struggled with the shift, and at other times, it’s been perfectly fine. For me, I have no problem telling people what to do. I grew up with it, and I think it’s a part of my DNA. I’ve also learned a lot about being more structured, which, I have no doubt, has been of benefit to many of my clients. (My son, David, has been instrumental in helping me along this path.)

Finally, I think that what I’ve been through, in managing these profound changes in my life, have given me an appreciation for the humongous changes that people all around me have been going through. It keeps me current and prepared for what’s yet to come.

Morrie

Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized

Fear and Loathing at the Water Cooler

Fear and Loathing at the Water Cooler: 5 Ways to Counter the Recession Related Employee Underground of Anxiety, Aggression, and Shame

If you’ve noticed employees behaving oddly these days, it’s probably not your imagination. Two things are happening with the workforce that are undeniable and that demand different strategies and reactions from business leaders at all levels.

Employees are scared. They’re afraid of their companies failing, of losing their jobs, their homes, and everything they’ve worked long and hard for.

In addition to feeling scared, huge numbers are feeling like failures. With few exceptions, nobody’s hitting their targets (even after multiple re-settings in a downward direction) and they’re constantly reminded of it in meeting after meeting where they’re confronted with embarrassing numbers or given patronizing and hollow pep talks.

How do we know they’re scared? One of two types of behaviors is sweeping through the workplace. Workers are quietly withdrawing to wherever they can hide out – their offices, break rooms, behind computers – seeking safety from any kind of interaction or inquiry. They’re placating, obsequious, almost painfully polite.

On the other hand, the amount of childish squabbling and pointless conflict has escalated to baffling proportions. In many companies, the culture has all the feel of a middle-school lunchroom instead of a dynamic place of business. Pettiness predominates, rumor-mongering is epidemic, and triangulation is the rule of the day.

You don’t need to be a psychotherapist to figure out what’s going on. Our earliest responses to fear are two-fold. First, we go quiet and hope no one notices us. Second, we lash out and try to hurt others. Both are in the service of trying to stay safe.

So what can we do to counter this unacknowledged underground movement? The following strategies have worked for us and many of our colleagues:

  1. Stop using thinking and brain-storming to talk people out of their feelings. Nobody’s going to think their way through this floundering economy and workers are not going to be logically disabused of their fears or their feelings of failure.
  2. Start openly talking about reality, from the top of the organization, down to the bottom. The economy stinks; it isn’t going to get better soon; it will exact a price from everybody; and it compromises many aspects of our lives. This reduces anxiety and allows people to refocus on productive work.
  3. Start talking (especially with your key people) about what it means to them to be a failure. Does it mean they’re worthless and of no value? Does it wipe out everything one does well? Or does it signify a missed opportunity and a lesson (albeit painful) learned? It is crucial, in this discussion, to get on the table the feelings of having disappointed others and of being disappointed in others. This clears a lot of air.
  4. Encourage and reward people acting in counter-intuitive ways. For example, what we’re seeing, in numerous sales forces, is a plethora of low-risk sales behaviors. Salespeople are doing everything short of pleading and begging and end up completely emotionally disengaged. Their fears of rejection have reached their zenith and they’re desperate and frozen. The only way out of this is to challenge the prospect like never before. Tight money doesn’t move without emotion.
  5. Lastly, focus on the skills of your key leaders and ask them (and yourself) the following question: “Of the skills that have made you successful thus far, which fit the current economic climate, and which do not?” Example: An extremely successful sales manager we have worked with has hit the wall in the last six months (along with the salespeople who work for him). His results have been mediocre and getting worse. A portion of this is clearly the economy; but he is well aware that a big chunk is him. He is very smart, very articulate, very “professional” and an astute tactician and problem solver. All of this has produced great results until now. He is also emotionally distant, hard to read, and deflects any attempt to really engage him, with humor.

    What he has had to develop is a new skill base involving self-disclosure, transparency, and vulnerability. There’s nothing inherently wrong with his historical skill base – it’s simply not enough anymore.

Having been through a number of recessions, what we’ve learned is that good times and high profits not only hide many sins, but also disguise a profound and damaging lack of personal and professional growth. It sometimes takes a challenging economy to show us that 80-90 percent of what has made us successful is also the cap on our future growth.

Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

October/November 2010

I consider the introduction to the newsletter my opportunity to share interesting, miscellaneous tidbits.  So here are three.
1.     Last week, during my travels around the country, I went through security at a small airport in North Carolina and saw something I rarely see.  As I was waiting for my shoes and briefcase to clear the bomb detection machine, a very tall and large fellow was standing next to me waiting for his shoes to be returned to him, since they had been singled out for special treatment.  The TSA officer approached him, holding his huge shoes in his hands, and with an absolutely straight and serious face, said the following.  “These shoes are too big to fly with, and your feet are too big for this flight.”  I’ve never seen someone lose all the color in his face so quickly.  There was an uncomfortable and excruciating silence, and then the TSA fellow broke into a smile and said; “Just joking.”  We all had one of those discombobulated laughs and went on our way.  Walking toward the gate I had two rather contradictory thoughts.  It’s certainly nice to see the normally stone-faced TSA folks with a sense of humor; but, why are they the only ones permitted to joke around in the screening area?  One other note – I also went through security in Chicago, at O’Hare, and the difference in the TSA folks was remarkable.  Not simply stone-faced, but indifferent to the passengers existence.  If you could be non-verbally rude and insulting, they’ve achieved it.  What happens to people in urban areas?
2.    I’ve had my first experience with destructiveness on the internet.  If you use Google to search for our website (FifthWaveLeadership.com), you will get the following message:  “Visiting this website may harm your computer.”  To say the least, I was quite alarmed (i.e. freaked out) to see this.  Knowing less about the internet and computers than I do even about my car, I thought it was curtains for our website.  I have found out subsequently, by talking with very knowledgeable people, that these kinds of things are not uncommon.  As it turns out, our site needed a goodly amount of work (since it was ancient by internet standards), so we’re essentially having it rebuilt.  What I found really interesting, as a side note to our problem, is that there are a number of wacky people out there in internet land whose lives revolve around screwing with other people’s websites, just for the fun of it.  These are not the same people, I’m told, who have monetary motives, perverse sexual agendas, or security breach interests.  They just like to make other people suffer.  I guess these are the new psychopaths, proving that everything new brings gifts and curses.
3.    Just today I received an email from a friend that made me aware of an amazing video addressing the issue of how children actually learn, and even more fascinating, how little it has to do with our traditional notions of “teaching.”  It couldn’t be more supportive of what I wrote last month about education and learning than if I had produced it myself.  The video is titled “Child-Driven Education”, and it describes the work and research of Sugata Mitra, an Indian “educator”. 
Mitra has done demonstration projects all over the world, primarily with children mired in poverty and substandard schools (if having any access to schools at all).  The core of his work involves giving groups of children a computer and an assignment (to solve a particular problem), and, most amazing, no instructions, no help, and no direction about what to do in order to solve the problem.  He just tells them what he wants as a result and he leaves them to figure it out.  In a number of instances, the children are illiterate, or speak only a local dialect, or speak an entirely different language than the assignment requires.  To say the least, they have no familiarity with, or knowledge of, computers.  And guess what?  They solve the problems and, most importantly, they retain and integrate the new knowledge.  If you have any interest in how people learn and how we can fix our terribly broken system, this video will enlighten, enthuse, and touch you.
Click here to view the video.
“Success Is Going From Failure to Failure, Without A Loss of Enthusiasm”…………………….Winston Churchill
Business Tips
“Heated Emotions in Business:  How Losing Your Cool Can Bring People Together”
What I like most about what I do is the opportunity to be a part of a living laboratory.  I regularly get to be right in the middle of interactions that prove the validity of the concepts I work on with clients; concepts that not only make their businesses better, but bring them closer together personally.
This was particularly true a few weeks ago when I was facilitating a senior management accountability group with a corporate client.  Near the end of the group one of the managers said that he had an issue to bring up that involved another one of the managers in the group.  These managers had worked together in the past and had a long standing relationship.  They both ran similar types of operations within the company.
The issue that the first manager had with his colleague involved the latter’s hiring of an individual that the first manager had terminated about a year ago.  All terminations are difficult, but this one was especially hard, for a variety of reasons.  The second manager hired the previously terminated person without any conversation with the first manager, or, for that matter, without running it by anyone on the senior management team.  The first manager was furious, and he made his displeasure clear.  He told his colleague how upset he was with the decision; how he felt discounted and betrayed; and how he felt that their relationship had been irreparably damaged.  The strength and intensity of his anger was apparent to all.  He was direct, confrontive, and clear.  What his colleague had done – more precisely, how he had handled the re-hiring – was totally unacceptable.  From his perspective, the values of the organization had been breached, and that could not be overlooked.
The second manager was, initially, very defensive.  He didn’t feel like it was that big a deal, nor did he feel like he had to run it by his colleague prior to the hiring.  The rest of the group gave him some tough feedback to the effect that they simply didn’t believe him and were puzzled by his decision and disappointed in him.  After the initial stonewalling, the second manager told his colleague that he didn’t tell him about the proposed hiring because he thought that the first manager would be upset with him and try and talk him out of it.  This led to a good discussion of a pattern of behavior that the second manager falls into, that always backfires on him.  He avoids upsetting people initially, which inevitably creates a far worse upset later on, and, even worse, undermines his credibility and integrity (by being dishonest, initially).  The upshot of his interaction was an apology by the second manager, to both the first manager, and to the rest of the group, for violating a core value, and for not trusting his colleagues’ ability to deal with a difficult situation, upfront.
It would be an understatement to say that there was some discomfort in the group, particularly at the beginning of this interaction.  You could have cut the tension in the room with a snow plow.  It was palpable and thick.  There were a few minor attempts to rescue the combatants and get people back into their heads.  I did nothing to try and defuse the intensity of the emotions.  I had total faith in the groups’ ability to work things through and believed that the only way through this seeming impasse, was a thorough airing of everyone’s feelings.  The very heat and intensity of the feelings shared was the catalyst for an ultimately honest and intimate connection between the two “adversaries” and the group as a whole.
Interestingly, a number of very heartfelt emails followed the meeting, all of them emphasizing the importance of clearing the air, getting the feelings out on the table, and creating a closeness by taking ownership of what one does and says.  As one of my friends and clients often says:  “This stuff really works.”
Political and Cultural Observations
“The Myth of ‘Special Interests’”  
In the midst of this political season there is much discussion of so-called “Special Interests” and their impact on the political process.  Almost without exception, the term has become synonymous with private sector organizations; in particular, with “big business.”  What I find curious is the total absence (even amongst far right groups), of any discussion about the single largest and most influential special interest – the Federal Government.
I would describe a “special interest” as an organized body of individuals or groups, underpinned by a set of values, principles, or core beliefs (articulated or assumed), whose purpose is to gain the widest possible dissemination and acceptance of those beliefs, as well as the greatest allocation of resources to their advancement.  At this point in our political and cultural evolution, no institution does this as aggressively and effectively, as the Federal Government and its attendant bureaucracy.  I am not, here, talking about the political point of view of the Obama administration or the legislature.  I am referring to the massive Federal bureaucracy and the set of assumptions about dealing with people that drives its daily work as it interacts with the American people.
Let’s look at the core beliefs and values of this enormous player that touches our lives on an almost daily basis.  From my experience and vantage point, the Federal bureaucracy believes the following:
1.     Individuals are not responsible for the choices they make in their lives.  Ultimately, their destinies and their futures are driven by forces outside their control.
2.     The goal of life is to seek comfort, at all costs.  Growth is fine, if it is not disruptive or uncomfortable.  If it involves any pain, it is to be rejected out of hand.
3.    “Education” is seen as a terminal process.  You learn everything you need to know, as soon as possible, and resist any attempt to get you to think or act outside the prescribed “nine dots”.
4.    Accountability to others is seen as unfair and unjust.  Blaming and excuse-making is institutionalized and legitimized by referencing the past.
5.    There is a clear differentiation between those who have the capacity to manage change and those who do not.  Those who do not must be treated differently and accommodated accordingly.
6.    Low levels of expectations must be applied to certain groups of people.  They are seen as quite fragile, and as a result, must be accepted as intrinsically limited and compromised.
To say the least, I categorically reject the beliefs articulated above.  I don’t argue the right of people to believe these things; but I very much resent my taxes being used to promulgate them.  This, for me, is the real outrage of “special interests”.  So, when I hear folks whining about all the “special interests” descending on Washington, I simply answer that they’re going there to counteract all the “special interests” already there.
Let me give you a practical example of how the Federal bureaucracy’s belief system gets played out.  Several years ago, on one of my trips to D.C., I decided to take a tour of the FBI headquarters.  I had had some contact with the Bureau earlier in my career, as an intern and as a consultant to law enforcement agencies, and I was interested in their history and evolution.  It was, to say the least, a disappointing experience.
The tour guide for our group was a morbidly obese young woman, shabbily dressed, speaking a dialect tangentially related to standard English, and with absolutely no interest, whatsoever, in the exhibits we were seeing, or the rich and varied history of the agency.  She could have made the arrival of the first group of inter-galactic visitors a boring and pedestrian event.
I was outraged by her behavior.  Given a different set of core beliefs and values, she would have been confronted with her abominable behavior and either made significant changes, or she would have been terminated.  I asked, at the end of the tour, to speak to a supervisor.  I expressed my dissatisfaction to him and asked him if he had any intentions of doing anything about this situation.  He didn’t even hesitate in his response:  “There’s nothing I can do; she’s civil service; she’s a woman; and she’s black.  My hands are tied.”  Do I need to say much more?
It’s not much of a logical stretch to translate the Federal Bureaucracy’s belief system into public policy, compensatory programs, and social engineering.  That’s how we got affirmative action, “set-aside” projects, “impacted zones”, suffocating regulations of the private sector and an intrusion into people’s personal lives that has had a chilling effect on innovation, creativity, and risk-taking.  And though the Federal Bureaucracy is the most visible and far-reaching purveyor of a caretaker philosophy, our public (and private) educational system is not far behind.  Its core beliefs and values mirror those folks in D.C., from the kindergarten classroom to the seminars in grad school.
My point here is that we need to disabuse ourselves (and others, especially in the mass media) of two key concepts.  First, that there is anything objective about government or the public sector.  They are as much a “special interest” as the lobbyists for Exxon, Target, or the insurance industry.  Second, the scapegoating and demonizing “special interests” is one of the trickiest distractions and subterfuges for deflecting attention away from the clear political stranglehold that the caretaking lobby has on government, at all levels.  As long as we spend our time and energy defending “special interests”, the disabling interventions and “help” of government bureaucracies goes unnoticed and unexamined.
So, the next time someone goes on a rant about the “special interests” in Washington, put up your hand, call time out, and insist that the discussion include government and education.
Personal Notes
“My Favorite and Most Impactful Movies”  
I have always felt that “favorite” lists were an exercise in trivialities – kind of chewing gum for the brain.  But a few months ago, in a conversation with a good friend and client – Ed West – I had to re-examine this belief, when Ed and I started to discuss the movies that had had the greatest impact on us.  This included movies that not only evoked strong emotions of a “serious” nature, but those that brought humor and joy to our lives.  So here they are, in no particular order of importance, but some types of categories:
“Young Frankenstein” – Possibly the funniest movie ever made.  Everyone in it gave virtuoso comedic performances; Mel Brooks, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Peter Boyle, and many others.  It is that rare combination of physical humor, clever writing, and uninhibited acting that doesn’t come along very often.
“A Fish Called Wanda” – The second funniest movie ever made, and undoubtedly the best example of politically incorrect humor ever produced.  The stuttering scene (done by one of the Monty Python fellows) is beyond a doubt the single funniest scene in movie history.  We’ve become so politically correct, that I’m afraid we’ll never see anything again to rival it.
“Annie Hall” – The quintessential portrayal of the quintessential Jewish neurotic.  This could easily be subtitled:  “When Concern Slides Into Paranoia”.  This movie has special meaning for me, since it was the first one that Arleah and I saw together.  She had had, in her life, no exposure to the culture I grew up in, and was so much a WASP, that someone had to tell her that she was involved with a Jew.  What better introduction to my history than a classical dose of Woody Allen.
“Good Fellas” – The most accurate portrayal of people in organized crime.  I grew up, in Chicago, with the Mafia all around me.  I had relatives tangentially involved with them; a few of my father’s patients were Mafioso; and in my psychotherapy training and consulting practice, I interviewed hit men and worked with the FBI Strike Force.  The “Godfather” had more glitz and drama, but, for me, lacked the visceral impact of “Good Fellas”.
“Scanners” – A strange, mostly misunderstood movie from the early 1980’s.  It was marketed as a blood and guts drive-in diversion for teen-agers who lived out their sex lives in their parents’ cars.  In reality, it was a very subtle metaphor for emotional overload.  It portrayed people who had no filter or discriminating mechanism for all the emotional information coming from other people.  They were constantly “scanning” the environment and were incapable of shutting off or sorting input and stimuli; so, in the inimitable style of Hollywood, their heads exploded.
“Altered States” – Another misunderstood gem from the early 1980’s.  This was a fictionalized portrayal of the early experiments with sensory deprivation (connected with our space program).  It showed people suspended in tanks of water, with nothing touching them, and in total silence.  Understandably, the results were not good.  Generally, people went nuts (i.e. clinically psychotic).  The metaphor passed by 99% of the audience, but was nonetheless powerful.  Remove boundaries and limits, and people will be destroyed.  A good lesson for our time.
“District 9” – A recent sleeper.  This is one of those meticulously crafted productions that absolutely sneaks up on you, and before you know it, you’ve undergone a shift in perspective that you had no conscious awareness of.  On the politically correct level, it is a fairly transparent metaphor for the perils of bigotry and prejudice (in this case, apartheid, as practiced in South Africa).  On a deeper level, it is about profound personal transformation, and the price it can exact on close relationships.
“Sophie’s Choice” – A gut wrenching portrayal of the human capacity for inhumanity.  One of those pictures that is an uncomfortable cultural necessity to remind us of what we’re capable of, and disabuse us of the arrogance of believing that it could never happen here or in our time.  A number of years ago, Arleah and I visited Auschwitz.  It was the end of the day, and for most of our time there, we were the only people in the camp.  I could not put in words the feelings we had walking through rooms full of glasses, shoes, and human hair.  After a while, the unspoken suffering of the place drove us out.
“What Dreams May Come” – The most profound depiction of grieving I’ve ever seen portrayed in a work of art.  The people who made this movie had to have suffered a crushing loss.  They had an understanding of grief and loss that few people have, and even less can articulate.  It is a work of pure emotion and demands a complete engagement on the part of the viewer.  And it is one of those movies that speaks to the aggrieved in an absolutely unique and powerful way – like a poem and a painting.  (I don’t know if it’s coincidence or karma, but the scenes depicting heaven were shot 30 miles from our house, in Glacier National Park.)
“Young at Heart” – A documentary about a singing group of 80 (and some 90) year old men and women from a town in Massachusetts.  It follows their lives (and some deaths), as they rehearse for their performances and challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zones.  Interestingly, they do not perform nostalgic “old folks” songs.  They sing down and dirty rock and roll, with all their heart and soul.  This is, without a doubt, the most inspiring movie about staying engaged with life that has ever been made.  You will never laugh so hard, nor cry so much, during any movie.
“The Notebook” – My all-time favorite movie.  On its surface, it’s a history of a compelling romance.  A love story for the ages.  One of those movies where you find yourself cheering for people to make it – to stay together forever and ever.  On that level it works well.  On a deeper level, it is the most evocative and soul-searching movie ever made about the emotion of true love; about unquestioning devotion; and the most noble response to the ravages of illness and aging.  When I want to get in touch with what Arleah and I share, and want to really access the full range of my feelings about life, I put on this movie.  If you ever have any trouble reaching deep inside, you need to own this movie.
Let me know how this selection has struck you.  I’d be interested in your comments on any of these movies that you’ve also seen.
Morrie

Tell us what you think – click here to send us an e-mail with your feedback.
morrie@fifthwaveleadership.com

Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized

Six Ways You Sabotage Your Leadership Ability

With all your credentials your leadership skills should be impeccable. You have an MBA from Harvard or some other prestigious business school. You’ve taken every executive certification program that’s come down the pike. You’ve been trained, coached, counseled and seminar-ed to the point of overload. But somehow, you keep failing as a leader in ways both overt and subtle. The same problems keep cropping up over and over again. And frankly, you have no idea where to turn next.

Instead of looking outside yourself for help, trying looking inward, says change-management consultant Morris Shechtman, author of the new book Fifth Wave Leadership: The Internal Frontier (Facts on Demand Press, January 2003, ISBN: 1-889150-38-X, $19.95). The truth is, your success as a leader has much more to do with your level of self-awareness than with how many degrees you’ve accumulated and how many programs you’ve completed.

“We all tend to repeat the same patterns over and over,” says Shechtman. “That’s because we are all subject to our familiars, which are strong and persistent collections of attitudes rooted in childhood that cause us to act in certain predictable ways. It’s very difficult to change your leadership patterns if you don’t understand this basic truth. Furthermore, the familiars that commonly manifest in the workplace can make it seem as though unproductive leadership behaviors are ‘normal’—an illusion that helps keep you mired in the same problems throughout your career.”

“To make matters worse, the information- and technology-rich era we live in makes it harder than ever to be a leader,” he adds. “You have to be able to navigate a tremendously sophisticated maze of business possibilities and inspire and motivate people on a deeply personal level. The two most critical skills in today’s world are making good decisions and building strong relationships. And that’s why it’s more important than ever to understand the behavior patterns that keep you from doing so.”

Certainly, the emotional baggage that’s weighing you down and keeping you from reaching your full leadership potential is varied and complex, and requires stringent internal exploration to identify. But Shechtman says he sees many of his clients and colleagues struggling with the same basic leadership problems, and examining them may yield insights you can apply to your own life and career. Here are some of the most common reasons you may be failing as a leader:

• You live by the theory of scarcity rather than the theory of plenty. The theory of scarcity holds that there are very limited resources out there to meet your needs and you must therefore accept any opportunity that comes your way. The theory of plenty says that there are infinite resources available to you, and you can pick and choose opportunities that mesh with your values and that ultimately benefit you. Believe it or not, you learned one of these mindsets before you were five years old—and it is still driving the decisions you make in your life and career!
If you subscribe to the theory of scarcity, you have a sense of desperation about every business decision you make. You may take on clients that undermine your company. You may hire and keep toxic employees. You may become trapped in fragmentation (because there’s no discernable focus to your business) and isolation (because you are too afraid to collaborate with people who might “steal” your business).
On the other hand, if you live by the theory of plenty, you turn down business that isn’t right for you. You hire the right kinds of people and fire those that are harming your company. You make focused, discriminating business choices based on your values and vision. You collaborate freely, thus expanding your network and leading more people to see you as a resource. If you lose a client, so what? You know a better one will come along. It’s easy to see how this mindset makes you a better leader.

• You avoid and discourage conflict. Do you think that conflict is somehow “bad” for yourself and your company? It’s not. Indeed, managing conflict is the very foundation of leadership. That’s because there is no growth without challenge, and there’s no challenge without conflict. A good leader must confront his employees on their negative behaviors and attitudes. Sure, it’s painful (for you and for them), but if you just tell people what they want to hear, you perpetuate relationships that are comfortable but ultimately superficial and pointless. And you give them the false impression that they are competent at doing what they’re actually incompetent at doing. And in the process you lose all credibility as a leader.
Many people believe that teamwork means everyone agrees, supports each other and gets along. Nothing could be further from the truth! Effective teams are made up of people who care enough about each other to generate conflict and confront the tough issues. If everyone agrees with their teammates without question, what usually happens is the whole team marches down the rosy path to self-destruction. It’s business suicide! So if you discourage conflict between your employees, not only are you an ineffective leader but soon there may not be a company left for you to lead.

• You refuse to get involved in employees’ personal lives. Consider this truth: all business is personal. In our integrated, information-intensive culture, it’s difficult to live compartmentalized lives. There is no longer a firewall between personal and professional; we now live “blended” lives marked by a sense of fluidity. You as a leader already take work home and chances are so do your employees. So why is it so difficult to accept the converse, that employees’ personal lives come to work with them? The reality is that the personal issues your employees deal with (or don’t) do affect their work — and therefore it is appropriate for leaders to address these issues.
Here is an example. Suppose that you have a valuable employee who is involved in an abusive, dysfunctional relationship. You know about this, but figure that it’s a personal issue and none of your business, so you don’t broach the subject with her. Then one weekend she finally decides she’s had enough, so she flees the scene—just packs her bags and leaves town. Because no one was there to help her, she ends up leaving the company in a terrible bind. Good leaders realize that people’s un-dealt-with issues, whether they manifest at home or at the office, are the company’s greatest risk . . . and they work to eliminate that risk.

• You intervene too early in people’s struggles. One of the worst things you can do in business—as well as in society in general—is to intervene too early in the struggles people face. As soon as you do so you take responsibility for their lives, and they never discover how rich a resource base they possess. Your employees must find the path that works for them. If you take over they will know what works for you, but not necessarily what works for them. Struggle is empowering and there is dignity in it.
As a leader you need to understand that struggling with their issues is how people get clear on what they believe. Their knowledge comes from their feelings and you can’t teach feelings, people simply have to experience them. So if you just give employees the “right answer,” you circumvent this feeling process. And if you intervene too early it’s probably because of your own pain—it’s painful for you to watch them struggle. It’s similar to “tough love.” And it’s the only way they will ever grow and develop.

• You’re charismatic. If you’re the kind of leader that other people tend to put up on a pedestal and turn to for all the answers, you may be crippling your company. That’s because charismatic people remove responsibility from everybody else and convince them that they can’t do anything on their own behalf. And what happens is that your employees are so mesmerized by you that they come to see themselves as followers—not as future leaders. Your company fails to grow and develop people to take over after you leave. And succession management is one of a leader’s prime responsibilities.
In a sustainable organization, the leader is not charismatic but the culture is.
A charismatic culture has a clear value system that constantly lets people know where they stand. It’s full of opportunities for professional and personal growth. The fact is, people want to make an impact on the culture that they live and work in. If everything they do is for someone else, they will always have a sense of dissatisfaction about their own roles. Charismatic cultures give people a sense of meaning in their lives. When they act on their own behalf they make a greater contribution and have a greater investment
in the organization.

• You’re moody. There are few guarantees in a global, information driven economy. The world we live and work in is unpredictable and has become even more so since September 11. Therefore, the last thing employees want is an emotionally unpredictable (i.e., “moody”) leader. They will gravitate toward a leader who possesses an emotional core that doesn’t vary. This does not mean they want an emotionally neutral “robot.” Rather, they want is a leader whose reaction is consistent with certain events. Specifically, that means someone who reacts negatively to anything that goes against company values and positively to anything that is in line with company values. (See why it’s so important to clearly define those values?)

If you’re wondering why emotion needs to enter into the equation at all, the answer is simple: people respond to feelings, not thoughts. If you mobilize people’s feelings they will contribute to a very strong culture. If you merely mobilize their thoughts, they will hold back their “gut reaction” and fail to give you full investment. People vote with their feelings. If it doesn’t feel right, they won’t do it. And if they don’t believe that you are driven by your feelings, they won’t follow you.

Did you recognize yourself in any of these examples? If so, don’t be discouraged. Knowing the enemy is the first step toward defeating it.

“Once you’re aware of what’s holding you back, you can change your self-destructive patterns,” Shechtman concludes. “You can drill down and examine the long-buried demons that are keeping you from optimal performance in your leadership role. Eventually, you’ll be able to diminish the power of your old familiars and create healthy new ones. And once your self-imposed road blocks have been demolished, you’ll be on your way to leadership excellence and, ultimately, a more meaningful and fulfilling life.”
Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

September 2010

It’s not your imagination – there was no August newsletter. I’m right in the middle of one of those “good news/bad news” scenarios. I haven’t been this busy in a long time (I’ve been “rediscovered” – alas, in my late 60’s), and I’ve never had so many simultaneous deadlines (I’m amazed at how much old time writing it takes to feed the new technology). I hope this newsletter still makes it to you in September.
First, a few announcements:
On September 30th, at 8:00 PM (CST), Arleah and I will be featured in an internet “Live Event”, sponsored by ConsciousOne.com, the pre-eminent personal development website. We’ll be interviewed by Scott Martineau, the site’s founder and CEO. The topic for the evening will be “The Secrets of Personal and Professional Success.” You can find out how to access the event through your computer or your phone (or through your intergalactic communication device) through this link: http://www.ConsciousOneLive.com/75Truths/Shechtman.cfm. There is no charge for participating in the event.
I am working with Frank Sarr and John Stout of Training Implementation Services (TIS) in Connecticut, on an interactive online seminar that incorporates the best of computer driven distance learning with live, telephonic coaching. We have taken my material and experience with recruiting and selection and have translated it into a unique, provocative, and highly effective program on “Picking Winners and Keepers.” It will allow anyone who is responsible for, or who touches recruiting, to learn a new and compelling methodology for assessing job applicants. And all of this can take place without the learner ever having to leave their office and travel anywhere. Lastly, this will allow an organization to scale this knowledge across a broad and large range of people, at an extraordinarily reasonable price point. We hope to have the finished product ready by the end of the year. Look for updates in future newsletters.
The newsletter will be changing after the first of the year. It will be shorter. I have gotten feedback that some folks would prefer that, and my internet guru friends tell me that it needs to be so if I want to compete with popular blogs. Also, the capitalist in me is getting tired of busting my ass every month (or so) and giving it away. I’m beginning to feel like a charity hooker of ideas. What I’m thinking of doing is offering longer versions (like White Papers) of the ideas put forth in the newsletter and charging a fee for each paper. Let me know what you think and how you feel about that idea. The fee would be fairly nominal, but somehow, I think it would make me feel better. Now, for the newsletter
Business Tips
“Meaningful Work and Meaningful Lives”
“Live a life of meaning and you won’t need to search for the meaning of life.”
Bill Valentine
I always like to make you aware of studies that affirm my ideas and opinions. It makes me feel good, it validates my intuition, and it fires up my Jewish chromosomes.
For years, Arleah and I have been preaching and teaching the importance of meaningful work, as the prime incentive for increasing productivity and performance, and for laying the foundation for building cultures of excellence. Well, lo and behold, a recently published study flashing around the internet, not only confirms this, but does so in a cross-cultural context. The study was conducted in the U.S. (Massachusetts) and in East India (in the northeast part of the country). It showed the following: When people were engaged in routine, repetitive work (most of which is being replaced by technology), more money proved to be an incentive for enhancing performance. However, when people were engaged in work that involved complex tasks and complicated interactions (i.e. involving lots of information and relationships), money not only failed to be an incentive, it proved to be a disincentive. This surprised everyone involved with the study. As more and more money was offered to people doing these complex tasks (which 90% of us do daily), performance steadily decreased.
So what increased performance? To put it in a nutshell – emotional involvement in the processes and the relationships at work. Communication, genuine participation, responsibility; in essence, a feeling connection with the human environment. What is most fascinating, for me, is the cross-cultural nature of the study. The results were the same in a first world, high tech culture, and a third world, developing society (the Indian part of the study was conducted in rural, agrarian villages, not metropolitan areas).
Making work meaningful, then, makes you money. And you do it by building relationships and emotionally connecting with people. If you choose not to do so (or have people working for you who choose not to do so) you will continually lose money. I’m often asked if people who struggle to build relationships and connect with people can be taught these skills. Absolutely – if they get constant, clear, and direct feedback in two key areas: How they impact other people (starting with you); and how they impact the desire or lack of such, to build a relationship with them. With these two critical bits of information, enormous change can occur. Without them, nothing will change. No amount of “training,” supervision, mentoring, coaching, or simply harassment will have any effect. Creating feedback rich cultures is the only way to consistently and permanently increase productivity and performance.
One additional, and very connected phenomenon, is worth noting. Over the last year (especially the last six months), I’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of people in the workplace, experiencing a personal meltdown (as well as people applying for jobs). The economic meltdown and severe financial contraction is putting unsustainable pressure on everyone’s lives; but in particular, on the lives of people who were on the margins to begin with. This pressure has threatened to obliterate any meaningfulness in the lives of lots of people, and they are simply grinding to a halt, paralyzed with indecision, trying their hardest to sustain unsustainable personal lives.
A few months ago I had a conversation with a senior manager who was telling me about an experienced salesperson who was doing worse and worse in his job. He was on the verge of losing his home, expecting another child, and having conflict with his wife. The manager was trying to re-arrange his schedule to relieve some stress, and was strategizing with him to try and save his house. None of this was having any positive impact. What I talked about with the manager revolved around helping the salesperson identify what brought some meaning to his life, and how to go about salvaging and preserving that. We developed a plan of action that involved helping the salesperson give up the house, cut back on all non-essential expenses, and focus on the relationship with his wife and the upcoming birth of their child. A lot of this interaction involved conversations about feeling like a failure, what that meant in the salesperson’s view of himself, and, most importantly, what brought the most meaning to his life. The turn-around has been dramatic. The business results are significantly better and home life has done a 180.
People can’t have meaningful lives at work, if they don’t have them at home. It is the responsibility of leaders to spot deterioration as soon as it surfaces; and even more importantly, to help people face it and make the tough, often gut-wrenching decisions. Ignoring it, or simply listening to people recite a tale of woe, and be sympathetic, is unhelpful, dismissive, and ultimately, cowardly. If we profess to care about the people who work with us, or for us, then we must do something that compels them to face what they need to do.
Political and Cultural Observations
“It’s Time To Retire Public Education”  
Our public education system is analogous to the American union movement. Both have served valuable purposes and have played important roles in the evolution of our culture. The problem, however, is that the culture that spawned them is dead and gone – long gone. And because of that, we have an educational system that is a relic of bygone times. As cultural institutions go, nothing is quite as irrelevant to the way we live, work, and most vitally, learn, as our public educational institutions (including private, parochial and “charter” schools).
The public school was a key institution in a new, then rapidly growing country. It played an essential role in the socialization, acculturation, and democratization of the diverse, unorganized, and often chaotic citizenry looking for a modicum of structure and direction for their lives. It grew up in a low information culture, with few vehicles of communication and a relatively modest rate of change. And it established a linkage between education and learning that stood for a few hundred years. The culture has changed – dramatically. The linkage is gone. And public education needs to go.
Learning and education no longer have a necessary connection. Learning involves the continual expansion of self-information and the integration of life experience with this self-information, in the service of fueling ongoing growth and development. It is about using what you’ve been through, to catalyze the next stage of your maturation and personal development. Above and beyond everything else, learning is fundamentally experiential, challenging, and disruptive.
Learning is not about content. It is all about context. In this post-Google culture, it is not only unnecessary, but is essentially fruitless and frustrating to try and fill your brain with a lot of data, facts, and information. This is not to say that there are not essential bits of knowledge required to live a good, productive, and self-sustaining life. It is simply to state what the new learning technologies have made obvious – children and adults learn rapidly and thoroughly when their life experience demands it. (In the 1940’s, A.S. Neill, in England, demonstrated this in his groundbreaking school – Summerhill – where people of all ages became literate, when illiteracy no longer served their needs.) The explosion of online learning, virtual conferences, and the “unschooling” movement (worldwide) is a testament to this seismic shift.
Education, as translated through our schools, is about compliance, coercion, and mind-numbing boredom. It was boring and unchallenging 50-60 years ago, when I was a student, and it hasn’t substantively changed. There are a few more gimmicky things, some “new” pedagogical theories, and a few computers – a token offering to the gods of technology. At its core, it is the same conflict-free, unprovocative, and emotionally sterile ballet, devoid of engagement and deep involvement. Earlier this year, there was an article in the New York Times Magazine, which reported the results of an exhaustive and comprehensive study of numerous programs attempting to improve the effectiveness of teaching. Its conclusions were fascinating and depressing. Effectiveness, using numerous criteria (not simply student test scores) was miserable and appalling. (The study was done by educators, not “critics” and was remarkably and brutally honest.) What was most telling, was that more money, smaller classes, different physical configurations, non-traditional teachers, mentoring and coaching programs – none of these had any significant impact on effectiveness. But, fascinatingly, and almost as an afterthought, there was a brief discussion of one variable that kept popping up. Every once in a while, a teacher emerged who was head and shoulders above their peers, in all measures of effectiveness. Guess what they did differently? They were emotionally engaging and challenging. Duh!
So, what needs to be done for us to become a truly life-long learning culture? I would suggest the following (in a multi-staged order):
1. Eliminate tenure at all educational institutions; from kindergarten through graduate school. It has always amazed me that there is little or no citizen outrage over the blatant contradiction of living in an increasingly high risk society, while supporting a cultural institution, touching almost all our children, that guarantees people life-long jobs after two or three years of work. Arleah and I never worried about the safety of our children, when we sent them off to school. What troubled us was their daily exposure to some of the lowest risk people in the culture, who had no appreciation for or any interest in the unpredictable, uncertain, and energizing world we lived and worked in (along with a few hundred million of our fellow citizens).
2. Put every teacher in America on a one-year renewable contract that paid them on the basis of their performance. The criteria for performance would be student achievement, student and parent feedback, peer review, administrative assessment, classroom observation (by independent third parties), committee work, and mentoring and coaching of colleagues. I know many excellent, engaging teachers all over the country. To a person, they feel suffocated and dispirited by the current system, and very resentful of the well-paid mediocrity surrounding them. I would have no problem paying excellent, engaging teachers six figure salaries, as long as it was possible to readily terminate incompetent, boring, and cynical teachers.
3. Eliminate the connection between property taxes and the funding of our schools. That money belongs in the hands of families, to use, at their discretion, to buy or not to buy, learning experiences for themselves and their children. If that’s a “school,” an online provider, a neighborhood co-op, a religious institution, or a private tutor; that’s their choice, and is none of my business or anyone else’s.
4. Eliminate compulsory education. All that requiring kids to go to school accomplishes, is to escalate the level of passive-aggressive behavior and malicious compliance. It also relieves families and individuals from taking responsibility for their own lives. Lastly, it penalizes excellent teachers and distracts and diverts them from working with willing learners.
5. Shutdown and shutter all the school buildings in America. (They could be used as museums, restaurants, or other businesses.) Keeping kids closed up in these anachronistic bricks and mortar structures, is one of the more bizarre things we do in our culture. The media, technology, and travel opens the whole world to them, and we expect them to grow, learn, and flourish, cooped up in a building, day after day, while the dynamic real world passes them by. Learning takes place by interacting with people doing real things in the real world. The community – local, regional, national, and international, should be our “school.” There are already a number of innovative programs in the “unschooling” movement, that involve students and teachers traveling the country, interacting with business people, government centers, healthcare facilities, and other cultural institutions. Their “schoolwork,” at the end of the day, is writing about and discussing what they just experienced.
I have always been a learner, and I love learning. I would love to see everyone in our society have the opportunity to take advantage of the almost infinite resources for learning increasingly available to us. It is almost within our reach.
Personal Notes
“Getting Tired of the Tolerence of Intolerance”  
As I age, I’m very much aware of two almost polar opposite changes occurring within me. The first is a softness, gentleness, and access to feelings that I have rarely experienced before. In particular, feelings of sadness and grief for my own losses, and for the losses and suffering of others. This past Memorial Day and the recent anniversary of 9-11, had an enormous impact on me. My good friend, Bill Valentine, sent me an email on Memorial Day, sharing his grief over the death of his son, in combat in the Middle East; and I could barely get through it without sobbing. I reproduce it here in hopes that it may help some of you tap into the grief over your losses, and experience some cleansing and release:
“Early this morning I went out to raise our flag as I do nearly every day.
But today is different. I followed the protocol for displaying the flag on Memorial Day. I raised it slowly to the top of the pole and then slowly lowered it to half-mast. It remains there now, hanging limply, sadly in the gentle rain that has been falling all night. And if God is nature, as some believe, God is crying today in memory of my son and the millions of others who have given their perfect selves for this imperfect country of ours.
The flag will remain at half-mast until noon, at which time it is again, this time briskly, returned to its proud position at the top of the flag pole. For within the pain and sadness of this day’s remembrance is also the feeling of awe, and pride and gratitude for those fallen. How do you thank an angel?”
These days I can barely watch a Humane Society commercial, without losing it. If the pictures of abused animals get too graphic, I have to switch channels.
On the other hand, I have developed a visceral disdain and disgust for politically correct idiots who establish moral equivalencies between political and business decisions made in our country, and the outright barbarism that passes for daily life in innumerable countries across the globe. This idiocy reached its zenith a few weeks ago, when some moral morons in our State Department actually worked with the U.N. Human Rights Commission (how’s that for a non sequitur?) to present Arizona’s Immigration Law as a possible human rights violation in the United States. What level of stupidity and denial do you have to sink to, to equate a piece of controversial legislation with stoning adulteresses to death, starving hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children into submission because of their tribal affiliation, and selling girls, as young as ten years old, into sexual slavery? Are you kidding me?
Let’s review some undisputed facts:
1. Every independent inquiry commission that has reviewed the outcome of U.N. Peace Keeping Troops’ interventions in Africa, has arrived at the same conclusion: Random murder and property destruction shoots up, and, even more outrageous, mass rape of not only adult women, but very little girls, skyrockets. Along with this, goes unspeakable mutilation of both sexes. This is not, by the way, only a recent phenomena. The history of central and northern Africa is one of a moving bloodbath. The History Channel, recently, aired a show about the slaughter of 350,000 human beings in Sierra Leone, by their fellow citizens. It took place in the 1970’s, and almost all the victims were either shot at close range, or macheted to death.
2. Women in Middle Eastern Muslim countries have a status somewhere around that of livestock. The rape “laws” are infamous for their absurdity and cruelty, and even when women are “allowed” to go see a doctor, they can’t, literally, see him, or be seen by him. In addition, a male relative must communicate the woman’s problem or complaint, to the doctor. Remember, also, that converting from Islam to Christianity is a capital offense. (I wonder what would happen if you convert to Judaism? Can you be killed more than once?)
3. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the stoning of adulteresses (where have we heard of that before?), the burning of witches; none of those horror shows were constructed or committed by Hindus or Buddhists. They were a Christian contribution. In a related issue, it took a bit over a few hundred years for the Catholic Church to absolve the Jews from responsibility for killing Christ. This gives a whole new meaning to “just in time.”
4. The Orthodox Jewish community in Israel is one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the region. Their rigidity and opposition to compromise is notorious, and although a very small segment of the total population, they have an undue impact (some would say, a stranglehold) on political and cultural life in the country. When I was growing up, my grandparents’ generation had “funerals” for their compatriots who married gentiles. And they treated them as if they were dead.
So, what’s my point? Is this a Bill Maher-type rant against organized religion? Nope? I’m simply fed up with hypocrisy and lying; particularly the latter. I’m real tired of hearing about “moderate Muslims,” as if that should make us feel better about lunatic Muslims. And I’m really, really tired of hearing that Islam is a gentle, peace-loving, and inclusive religion. It is not. And you don’t have to be a scholar of the Koran to figure it out. Like all unreformed belief systems, it is narrow, intolerant, and brutal in its view of “non-believers.” We’ve been here before, with Judaism and Christianity. It’s Islam’s turn.
What I’d like to see is politicians, opinion makers, business leaders, and other “spokespersons,” have the courage to speak the truth. Specifically –
I’d like to see a senior spokesperson at the State Department announce that the only reason we have any kind of relationship with most of the regimes in the Middle East, is that they have oil. And that if they didn’t have oil, we’d cut off communication as fast as Lindsay Lohan in a rehab program.
I’d like to see the Obama Administration come clean and just tell us directly that their number one objective is to even the score with free-marketers, and that if you’ve been a successful risk-taker, you’ve got a target on your back.
I’d like to see the leadership of the Republican party tell the religious right that their obsession with abortion and gay rights does not make it a legitimate public policy issue. And that their unending crusade to jam their fundamentalism down the party’s throat, only alienates and dispirits genuinely concerned people.
I’d like to see the leadership of the Democrat Party tell the Congressional Black Caucus to cut it out. Nobody plays the race card more than those folks, and nobody throws around the “racism” label more gratuitously and self-destructively. Unfortunately, they’ve become every bigot’s dream.
This isn’t too much to ask, is it?
Morrie

Tell us what you think – click here to send us an e-mail with your feedback.
morrie@fifthwaveleadership.com

Posted in Newsletters, Uncategorized