What happened to the golden rule?

Gold bars

I happen to live in Croatia, one of the former six socialist republics of Yugoslavia. Croatia gained independence from Yugoslavia during the Balkan civil war (1991 -1995) and became a democracy. The people had high hopes for their future. They would finally be freed from Belgrade and the other socialist republics and could run their own affairs. However, the first president of Croatia, Dr. Franjo Tudjman, had a flaw in his plan from the start. In his vision of Croatia he envisioned a country where 100 families, the elite, would control the economy. And so it was to be, state assets where sold off for a fraction of their value, often for a symbolic “one Euro”. However, rather than reinvest in these businesses, most were closed down and their assets, mostly prime real estate, were sold off to the highest bidder. Now 20 years later the results are painful for the thousands of employees who lost their jobs whilst the elite live off their wealth. The economy is a disaster, GDP keeps shrinking and politicians are busy protecting their own asses and standard of living by raising taxes; believing in the illusion that they can cover the ever growing budget deficits that way. It is not surprising that many long for the years under Marshall Tito. You may not have had total freedom of speech then, but at least they had jobs, and everyone lived a comfortable life. As a result, Today Croatia has one of the highest VAT (Value Added Tax) in Europe, the cost of labor is also one of the highest at about 80% for salaries above 1500€ per month, not to mention the administrative red tape, all together, make it unattractive for foreign investments; in fact all this is further chocking the economy.

Marshall Tito may not have been a religious man, and religion had no place in politics during his reign in power, but he understood the essence of the golden rule.

Regardless of your religion or beliefs, the golden rule can be found in most religion or belief system. It is written in the Torah, the Bible, and the Qur’an, even the Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote about the golden rule:

“One should treat others, as one would like others to treat oneself”.

On this principle everyone seems to agree. In fact in 1993, in an attempt to create the “Declaration toward a Global Ethic”, 143 leaders of the world religion and faith signed the declaration under the auspices of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

However, as I watch the news on TV or read in the newspaper, world events remind me of an old joke about the golden rule:

“The one with the gold makes the rules”

Unfortunately this seems to be the real golden rule nowadays Croatia’s ex-prime minister is in jail, because of corruption and captains of industries don’t pay their taxes. Now this might even be expected from a young Balkan country like Croatia, but the same sort of thing occurs in other countries, maybe not quite as obvious, the actions are subtler but the impact is the same nonetheless. In the US, the bastion of democracy and liberty, companies lobby politicians to pass laws in their favor, with little regards for the impact on the citizens. In fact, when a civil servant bucks the trend and refuses to go along with the nonsense he often gets fired or removed from his position, to be replaced with someone who is more agreeable. Such was the case with “Aspartame” in the 80’s: Amid indisputable research that reveals the toxic effects of aspartame the commissioner of the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), Dr. Jere Goyan, was fired before he had a chance to ban the substance, his follower Dr. Arthur Hayes Hull, signed the approval of “Nutrasweet” in dry foods and later in liquids.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of other examples where lobbyists “convince” politicians to pass legislation in their client’s favor whilst ignoring the effects on the population at large; it is scandalous!

A web of lies

A web of lies

Unfortunately, with the 2013 amendment to the US information and education exchange act of 1948. (Smith Mundt act) it is easier for the government to divert funds for propaganda within the US borders; thereby obscuring the truth and feeding the public with their own messages.

So all jokes aside, we now live in a world where:

The ones with the gold make the rules!

The pecking order

It’s been a while since my last blog. In fact quite a number of things have changed since my last blog.  Back in April, a week or two after publishing my last article, my wife and I visited the local farmers market.  We were familiar with the vegetables and fruits section but we discovered they had a live animal section and decided to have a closer look. As we strolled through the isles full of chickens, turkeys, and ducks, of all ages and size, an idea struck us.: why not get our own chickens! We have enough space in the backyard and will get the benefits of eating fresh eggs.  As we neared the end of the isle, we spotted what has to be the picture perfect rooster and hen. We approached the man and inquired about his chickens. He told us they were an Italian breed of chickens. Awestruck by their beauty we bought them on the spot without too much thinking about it.  We told the man we did not have any experience with chickens and he helped us select the right feed for them, which luckily for us, was sold in another section of the market.  Normally we like to have lunch at the market for there is a place that serves delicious roasted suckling pig, but today, with our precious cargo, he headed straight home. On the way, my wife and I discussed various possible names for our new pets. And we settled on “Luigi & Luisa”.

Chicken_buffet

Chicken Buffet – Breakfast is served!

Now I must admit that such an idea would not have flown in the past as I know absolutely nothing about raising chickens; but, the eggs from the store have been tasting like fish lately and I find that quite disgusting to be honest.  Besides, how hard can it be? When we got home, I started building a fence so our dog would not eat our chickens before we have had the time to taste the eggs. We used the old dog pen  (our new dog refuses to go in the old dog house) as it been sitting empty since we lost them.  However since the pen does not have a roof, Luigi escape to the neighbor’s garden and Luisa disappeared! Half an hour later, whilst I combed the neighborhood looking for Luisa, our neighbors caught him and brought him back.  As we brought him back in the pen I also found Luisa, she had been hiding the whole time in the Cedar tree.  I quickly proceeded to cover the pen with wire fencing to ensure they stayed where the belonged. Luigi and Luisa spent their first night in the pen perch on top of the doghouse.

Luigi&Luisa

Luigi & Luisa getting ready for bed!

However it did not take long to realize that, being a family of four, one hen would not be enough to feed everyone. We needed more hens if we were going to enjoy their eggs. During the following four weeks, my wife and I visited all the nearby farmers market and, each time, bought a pair of hens: Lily & Lola, Gertrude & Olga, Stefitza & Katitza,  Dora & Dara. We now have 9 hens and one rooster.

Gertrude

Gertrude – our first egg layer

Olga

Olga – our smallest but bravest hen

As the flock kept increasing I also realized that the old dog pen would not be sufficient for our new pets.  I researched how to raise and care for chickens on the Internet and found a very helpful websites: Backyard chickens dot com .   I learnt that hens need a quiet and darkened place to lay their eggs so I looked up the basics principles of making a chicken coop, and went to work on it. If we were going to raise chickens, then we might as well do it right! I also found out that our Luigi and Luisa where not Italian but rather an Icelandic breed.  I guess Gunnar and Guðrún might have been more appropriate names but “oh well” we decided to stick with Luigi and Luisa.

Katitza

Katitza – the shy one

Stefitza

Stefitza -lays 2 yolk eggs

After having finished the coop, I realised I should have started with the floor. You see when we built the dog pen we laid down wood so it would not be to cold for the dogs, but now, years later, the floor is rotting.  I decided to pour some concrete, as it would make it easier to clean than wood.  This proved to take longer than I had anticipated. As the chickens were living there I had to subdivide the area into smaller square and tackle each one individually.

Lilly&Lola

Lily on the left and Lola on the right

The upside of this process was that I had lots of time to observe the chickens.  I had heard of the pecking order, I even learnt about the pecking order financial theory; but never had the opportunity to observe it.  Since we introduced our chickens to our flock 2 at a time, every new introduction was an opportunity to observe first hand and here is what I have learnt:

1) The rooster is the leader and he takes his job seriously.  One would think he would be the first in line to eat, but as a true leader, he lets the top hens eat first. While they are eating he chases the lower rank hens around and thereby provides them cover so they can eat in peace.  The rooster is also vigilant. As dusk approaches he is constantly looking up at the sky and is the first one to settle in for the night. He leads by example.

2) Size does not always mean rank.  Rank is determined by productivity. We have introduced smaller hens to the flock that have immediately risen to the top because they laid eggs. (Although this might have to do with the fact that egg-laying hens let themselves be fertilized by our rooster ;-))

3) Once the pecking order is established, there is no need for violence. The chickens accept their rank and live by the rules.

4) Hens are proud of their work! Every time they lay an egg, they sing a song, as if to celebrate their accomplishment.

Do morals and values need calibrating?

Values-300x224

Picture, courtesy of desert moon rising dot com

I recently entered into a discussion in one of the forums on Linkedin. That got me thinking and recalibrating my views on morals & values. The thread’s topic started with the question “How much are you respected as a consultant?” Someone posted: “Respect has nothing to do with performance. It’s a meaningless babble word like “trust, ethics, values and morals” -all which have numerous meanings”. Although the statement is correct, I was irked by the comment, as I believed that: “defining and sharing values is what holds societies together, it provides a yardstick against which we can judge intentions and actions. If we did not have any values or morals we could not differentiate good from bad”. My colleague and I had a good exchange but I had to admit that smoking marijuana in Texas is considered bad (jail) whilst in Colorado it is good, or at least legal. Morals, values and ethics are “babble” words – not convinced about trust just yet- that have different meanings depending on where you live and where you’re from.

It is true that different moral standards apply to different religion and tribes. A good example is homosexuality, (or sexual freedom). It is measured or ranked on a morality scale very differently in Saudi Arabia (Mecca the heart of Islam) than in Europe (the home of the Christians). Regardless which religion, religions have held the monopoly on morality matters throughout history. Interestingly enough the Jews, Christians and Muslims all share the same root and thus the “old testament”, where the guidelines are very clear:

ten_commandments

Courtesy PreSchools4All.com

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, religions and God have little in common. Religions are all lead by men; all claiming to be speaking the message of God. Although I not contesting the original message or intent of sharing the “message” with others, religions develop a life of their own. Even the seven deadly sins, although noble in their nature, are a fabrication of the church. History has taught us that power is addictive. Today it’s the politicians that get addicted to it, “power” is the drive behind the men who are behind the religions. Regrettably history has also taught us that power corrupts, and the religion’s elders seldom retire as Pope Benedict did. The system just isn’t perfect.

It just seems that once upon a time, value was measured differently; or maybe we just measured more things than just money. Perhaps it’s because presidents of companies did not make a thousand times the salary of their lowest paid employee. Of course you may argue that today’s CEOs generate perhaps a thousand times more value as an employee than the man on the assembly line; and that it is only fair to compensate him accordingly. Good point, if we take shareholder value as the only measure of success. Unfortunately this is the same logic (along with a few other things of course) that has lead China to become the world’s manufacturer, making things where it’s cheapest. How can Europe be facing some of the highest “youth unemployment” ever measured whilst the baby boomers are entering retirement age? Quite simply, the jobs have moved elsewhere because it’s good business, good for the bottom line. In today’s global economy, not only are you competing against the neighbour’s business from across the street, you compete with a business from across the world, and your neighbours are all over the globe. So the decision to move jobs abroad is relatively easy to make; in many cases it may even be imperative to a company and it’s business model’s, survival. It’s just about money and shareholder returns. There is no room for morality. Time goes by and as employees are victims of the circumstance, the greed slowly siphon’s away the jobs and economic activity these jobs provide. This is the kind of actions and reasoning behind paying CEOs large salaries. The only value that count’s today is money. Never mind honesty or integrity, mastery or excellence, reliability and trust are all just words that look good on the vision statement but are hard to recognize in every day actions.

I happen to live in Croatia, a young democracy with an abundance of natural resources; since it’s inception in 1991, the vast majority of politicians have demonstrated with their actions; that they care more about their own pockets than the people, and state, they are meant to represent. Not only did they managed to squander the previously state owned companies, they have indebted the country to the point that fiscal discipline, mandated by the EU, is now very painful. The answer has been to raise taxes; at 25%, we have one of the highest “Value Added Tax” in Europe; and things are not only taxed once, but every time they are resold. These policies are snuffing out any kind of economic spark and this is reflected in the low investment figures. As we watch the evening news report about the corruption trial of the ex-prime minister, Ivo Sanader, the country is facing tough economic times and millions of people are paying for his greed, whilst the people that supported him are living it up immune by their fattened wallets to the hardship their irresponsibility have caused. What is sad; is that Croatia is certainly not the only example.

Many will argue that we have more choice today than ever before. Choice means competition and competition means a better product for consumers. Thereby stimulating innovation, which spews out new products and more choice. Those who don’t adapt to the ever-changing conditions quickly go out of business. Industries become extinct, just like species in nature; essentially a kind of “economic evolution”, where the only law is the law of the jungle: survival of the fittest. It’s only fair to say that in such an environment, it’s not surprising that people start worshiping money rather than god, wrongfully believing that money is the only thing that makes you happy. In fact if we dig a little deeper we find that there are many things that we value in life; we just tend to forget them. They get lost in the rat race that has become our lives, juggling deadlines and priorities whilst constantly distracted by everything and everyone who is seeking our attention.

So to refresh our memories about what is valuable to individuals, and give you the opportunity to recalibrate your own priorities; I thought of sharing this values map (found at with an open heart dot org).

values-mind-map

 

 

 

Are you trustworthy?

trust2

Recent events in my life have reminded me about the importance of trust. No matter what relationship you look at, business or personal, trust is the key component of its foundation.  No trust, no meaningful relationship; the importance of building trust cannot be underestimated.  Nevertheless, trust is not a subject that is taught, or even covered for that matter, in schools. Sure our parents, or elders, can talk about their experiences with the subject as they sum up what they have learned but it is generally abstract and not necessarily relevant to your own situation.

Fortunately research has been made on the subject. In their 2001 best selling book “The trusted advisor”, Charles H. Green, David H. Maister and Robert M. Galford present a simple, but effective, way to understand the dynamics of trust. Through their research the authors of the book have develop the “Trust Equation”. This simple formula covers the important components that dictate whether you will trust someone or not. The equation goes like this:

Trust_equation

By increasing the elements in the numerator you increase trust whilst by increasing the denominator you reduce or undermine trust.  Although the book was written with business relationships in mind, I have found that it applies to our personal lives as well.   But to really understand the formula we need to look at, and understand, all its variables.

Credibility – has to do with whether one can be believed or not.  Can one present credentials to support their credibility.  Although it is sometimes also referred to as “the words one speaks”, I find it important to consider the other aspects of communication as well.  Classical NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) emphasizes that words only make up a small portion of real communication. In his 1994 article, in Anchor Point magazine, Dr. Buzz Johnson claimed that words only make up 7% of communication intonation 38% and body language 55%.  Although more recent studies have challenged the accuracy of the results the concept remains valid: words make up a much smaller percentage than intonation and body language.  This is why I find that all three components of communication need to be considered. Let’s face it you may have a good story but if you are hesitant when you tell it, I will have a hard time believing you. Therefore intonation and body language are also important components of credibility.

Reliability – Has to do with your actions, can you be depended on to deliver what you promise. In business you can think of things like, being on time or following up and sending the material you promised. In your personal life, it often comes down to you being consequent. Are your kids or partner used to you saying something than doing something else or do they “know” that when you have said something you will not change your mind or soften up and cave in somewhere along the way.

Intimacy – has to do with your ability to connect with people and give them a sense of security. While I trained my fellow consultants I used to tell to develop their observation skills; pick up clues in someone’s office about themselves and their personal lives. This could be things like the diploma that hangs on their wall, which university is it from, perhaps you went to the same university; or a family picture, which enables you to ask about their kids and share your own experiences with children; or a vacation picture skiing and you are an avid skier yourself. Whatever the case, someone’s office generally holds clues about their personal lives and the fact that they are on display gives you permission to bring them into the conversation and explore how you can connect with them; ultimately raising the level of intimacy.

Self-orientation – has to do with where your focus lies, particularly with yourself. Since it is the denominator, the less self oriented you are, the better. You may have scored very well on all the variables above but if your counterpart has a sense that you are only thinking about yourself this will strongly undermine their trust in you. You probably have heard the saying: “The truth in selling is that you succeed more at sales when you stop trying to sell. When all you focus on is helping prospects, they trust you more and buy from you more as well.”[i]

In todays world of scams and politicians trust is hard to come by. It seems that greed, and or the hunger for power, will push people to, and often over, the limits of integrity and morals.  People get blinded by the illusion that money and wealth can bring them happiness, and will often sell their souls in the process; only to wake up one day in a big house and an empty life. Money can always buy you “fair weather friends” but it can’t buy you real friendship.

How are you approaching the innovation challenge?

ideas

We live today in ever faster changing times. The industrial, technical and   telecommunication revolution of the end of the last century are quickly being followed by the information and social connectivity revolutions. It has never been easier to learn, create and share.  Whilst a lot has been written about deconstructing businesses and their business models. We have witnessed giants like Eastman Kodak, or Encyclopedia Britannica, who have failed to develop and market innovative products and services as their traditional business models were doomed were being destroyed. There are countless other examples of all sizes and national backgrounds; and they all share something in common: a failure to adapt to changing times, a failure to innovate.  But you better get ready because the next revolution will be the innovation revolution.

But wait innovation “today “is not was it was 20 years ago, it has evolved. Perhaps the best example of a modern innovative company is Apple.  Under Steve Job’s leadership, they explored and exploited other innovation dimensions such as customer experience through: design, quality, ease of use, shops and distribution.  Innovation today is not only about  new and improved products, it’s about the way we see our customers and how well we understand their needs and how we can serve them. Even if the foundation for any successful business is a quality product, there are many other aspects of our offering where a little innovation can gain us a competitive advantage.  It would be foolish to ignore it.

So how to approach the innovation challenge?

Start by understanding “who” your customers are?  It’s ok to serve everyone who wants your product, but its better if you know understand your customer’s buying patterns. Because when you understand, you can better target them with specials and offers that can boost your bottom line.

Once you know whom you are targeting, reflect on their needs. A good tool to help you put things into perspective is the KANO Model. By reflecting, categorizing and weighing and comparing your product/service attributes vs your competitors you can create a clear picture of where you stand. Because over time product attributes have a tendency to move down from delighters to performance and then basics, you can also use the tool to map your innovation strategy for each product over multiple product generation.

Kanomodel

You a can also use the KANO tool for the next phase: mapping the results of your customer’s experience and that of your competitors.

The next phase is to reflect on your customer’s experience.  Ask them for feedback and engage and prompt them to give you ideas; “put your self in their shoes”.   This is can often be a problem as the contacts you have at your customers are rarely the ones using your products.  You will have to put some effort into your initiative if you want real feedback for the users of your product. Sophisticated companies strive to understand the internal dynamics of their customers as to identify the influencers, stakeholders and decision makers with regards to their products. Not getting any complaints from the shop floor maybe the kind of minimal criteria needed to stay in the game, other times it requires a lot more than that.  Whichever approach you pick, to learn about your customers and their organisations, it is important to remember that the rule here is not  “More is better” but rather the opposite “less is more”. For it is important that your customers see actions out of your questions and survey; otherwise they will lose interest and won’t give feedback anymore; you are wasting their time. Just remember that when you ask for feedback you should give feedback in return.

The real news is that individuals and small business entrepreneurs can also use these tools to discover opportunities around them, services that are not being fulfilled or other innovative offerings. By playing to their strengths and turning their weaknesses into advantages they can carve niches out of otherwise saturated markets and distinguish themselves from their competitors just by thinking through their approach to innovation.

Have you ever looked at the other side of the coin? It’s as easy as 1–2–3!

goldmapleleaf

Sometimes in life, there comes a moment when circumstances for change are forced upon you. Events such as redundancy, divorce, illness or the death of a loved one will generally upset the delicate balance in your life and bring about changes that you may not be ready for. Some people manage to make the best out of it and actually benefit from the change; others wallow in despair, longing for what they have lost, and have great difficulty in getting back on their feet. Which category you fit into depends upon your attitude and perception of the situation.

One thing is certain: the trend today is that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. In a blog post entitled “On Changing Careers”, Dick Bolles – whose best-selling book What Colour is your Parachute sold over ten million copies – points out that you’re never too old to change your career and rethink yourself anew. And why not – the conditions have probably never been better. The Internet has brought information and knowledge to our fingertips and connects us in ways that make some traditional networks obsolete. This provides new conditions and, therefore, new opportunities. The challenge is daring to explore them!

Many people are simply afraid to make the move; some may be forced to do so by their circumstances, whilst others may feel that it’s time for a change or may just be curious. Whatever your personal situation is, I’d like to share my 1–2–3 process with you, in the hope that it will help you in your decision-making. We’ll start with our coin because, as the saying goes: “there are two sides to every coin”, and it’s always worth looking at both sides.

The other side

The other side

1. The “other side”

Whether positive or negative, one side of the coin will be easier to see than the other, depending on the situation and your personality. After all, if you want to see the other side of a coin lying on the table, you will have to put in some effort by flipping it. Whether you see the advantages or disadvantages first is not relevant; the fact remains that you will have to put in some effort if you want to see the other side. So, whether you get carried away by the euphoria or depressed by the events, you should sit down and take the time to look at the other side.

Take a piece of paper and make a list of advantages on one side and disadvantages on the other. For some, this exercise might be difficult as they may be blinded by the situation. If this is the case, you can always enlist some family members or good friends to help you out; they may be impartial to your situation and see things you may have missed.

2. Who am I today?

Now that you have a more balanced picture of the situation, you should be ready for the next step: turning the situation to your advantage. The first step here is to develop a good picture of your own strengths and weaknesses in today’s context. Most people have been conditioned by years of traditional and institutional beliefs that attitudes and behaviours should be corrected and that people should be shoehorned into an idea of perfection. However, research has shown that it is much more productive to focus on developing people’s strengths and providing opportunities where they can thrive. For employees, this is much more positive and rewarding because it is easier for them. It also allows them to shine, which helps boost their self-confidence.

Regardless of your self-image, I find that the best way of developing a true picture of yourself is to start with the Johari Window.

Johari_Window

The Johari Window – named after its inventors, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham – is a communication model used to improve understanding between individuals. It is often used in team-building sessions and in self-help groups. It is a structured way of mapping out your strengths and weaknesses. It also involves dialogue with others and an element of introspection – both of which are necessary in creating an honest picture. The key to success in this exercise is to treat feedback as a gift given to you. No matter if it’s negative or positive, feedback helps you paint your picture, and you are free to interpret it as you wish. There is almost always a kernel of truth behind every piece of feedback, even the most negative. It’s up to you to interpret it and pull the right conclusions from it. Besides, by taking this attitude, you won’t be so easily offended by the person giving you feedback.

3. Building the “big picture” puzzle

As the subtitle says, this is where you piece it all together. But before you jump into brainstorming and the elaboration of your opportunities, there is one more conditioning step you need to go through.

As we are constantly bombarded by messages, our brains handle information based on the filters we have developed around our beliefs and context. This causes us to process information without really thinking about it. How many of us have family members or friends who keep trying to “sell us” on the benefits of what they do, but we never consider it because we categorically believe it is not for us. The point here is not about that particular person or idea; it’s about the need to reset your compass and consider all options. I believe in the interaction of people and the notion that we each have a message to convey when we meet and interact. Our task is to find out what that message is. Could it be possible that you have unconsciously ignored certain messages recently? This is why it’s worth reflecting precisely about this point by making a list of potential messages you may have missed but which would be useful to consider.

Now you are armed and ready to put your picture puzzle together. You have analysed your situation, you have a good grasp of your strengths and weaknesses and you have raised your awareness of what the world around you has to offer. You now need to put the pieces together by making connections between the three elements and developing your hypotheses and options.

A good way to round up the exercise is to map your ideas/options in the following matrix:

EffortRewardmatrix

 

This will help you choose the right options!

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 4 February 2013

Are you using a leadership mirror?

Courtesy  of Dreamwallsglass.com

Courtesy of Dreamwallsglass.com

I recently read a McKinsey Quarterly article on “Why leadership-development programs fail”. The article highlights several factors that, while appearing obvious on the surface, are often misunderstood: overlooking context, decoupling reflection from real work, underestimating mind-sets and failing to measure results.

Since I have personal experience of some of these pitfalls, I thought I could enhance the lessons from the McKinsey article by sharing some of my observations; thus, enabling you to make the right decisions when it comes to developing leaders within your own organisation.

Let’s start with the first pitfall: overlooking context. The article points out that a brilliant leader in one situation may not perform well in another. Although this is not unusual, it makes you wonder whether that person was a real leader to start with. Real leaders are able to anticipate and adapt to any situation because they carry more than one arrow in their quiver. Just because a formula worked in the past does not mean it will work forever. Different situations demand different approaches and tools. Versatility is an important trait of good leadership. People who stick to the tried and proven approach often do so because they are comfortable with it or, even worse, because they don’t know what else to do – not exactly a sign of strong leadership.

But I guess this also proves the point that a generic approach to leadership development – the one size fits all attitude – is not appropriate. Everyone is different; someone’s strength is someone else’s weakness. This almost guarantees that in a classroom setting someone will be bored. This may also help explain why the article points out that adults retain just ten per cent of what they learn in the classroom. Personally, instead of trying to fight against this phenomenon, I prefer to use it to our advantage by pairing up executives who display the opposite strengths and weaknesses. For example, someone with great personal skills could be matched with someone who has difficulties with people but who is brilliant at strategic thinking. This not only helps individuals, it strengthens the leadership team by reinforcing the bonds between senior leaders. This approach also helps bridge the second pitfall – decoupling reflection from real work – because it provides leaders with time to reflect and analyse their own performance in a non-threatening setting. It also encourages growth and development because it allows leaders to monitor their progress – thereby addressing the last pitfall of failing to measure results.

The remaining pitfall – underestimating mind-sets – is more difficult to deal with. In most organisations, there exists a huge gap between the top floor and the shop floor. Leaders are so far removed from the day-to-day activities of the organisation that they have often lost their sense of reality. This misunderstanding frequently leads to suboptimal policies and plays to internal politics and infighting. Without understanding the real organisational dynamic behind undesirable behaviours, it is unlikely that sustainable behavioural change can be achieved. As the article points out, people’s actions are often derived from entrenched beliefs, which regularly go unquestioned simply because they are so obvious. This is where consultants – who are not tainted by years of “business as usual” – can add considerable value. They can provide an unbiased view of reality and identify the drivers of undesirable behaviours. Consultants provide leaders with a unique opportunity to look at themselves in the mirror and map out the shortest way to get results.

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 20 January 2014

How elastic is your ego?

Have a look in the mirror! Photo courtesy of IKEA: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40213759/#

Have a look in the mirror!
Photo courtesy of IKEA: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40213759/#

The other day my wife and I had a fight, and she called me an egotist. Although there are always at least two viewpoints to every argument – and I don’t want to get into too much personal detail here – the statement made me reflect. Although I did not agree with her point of view, in essence I had to agree that I have an egotistic streak in me. But isn’t that a good thing? How can you ever be confident and successful if you don’t like or respect yourself? Certainly a measure of egotism is healthy. But the question is how much is good and how do you know when to tone down or ramp up your egotism?

It’s clear that for any relationship to work, there needs to be some kind of balance from both sides – and I suspect there is no real recipe or formula. The equilibrium in each relationship will lie at a different point, probably between 40 and 60 per cent, depending on the individuals. Only the involved partners can define the point of equilibrium, as it is dictated by their own comfort levels. With equilibrium, love and respect can flourish and relationships can develop to the point where the “whole” is greater than the sum of its parts – well in theory at least.

Where things go wrong is when one partner perceives a deviation from the equilibrium.  This is also where the dynamics get complex. As individuals, we all have our own view of what is tolerable and what isn’t: our filters. Then there is the individual temper or the fuse; some people have a short fuse with frequent eruptions, others have long fuses that don’t erupt often but produce much larger eruptions when they do. As people we are all just different, and it is our ego that guides us when we judge and react to our partners’ actions or words. It is also our ego that gives the elasticity to the equilibrium point. Some people would call this the “give and take” of a good functioning relationship. Are we willing to accept certain things, tolerate others, ignore the little things because we are focused on the whole? The problem with ignoring the small things is that sometimes they are like a tiny stone in your shoe; the moment you feel something you can decide to ignore it or take the time to remove it. Even if you decide to ignore it at first – the stone might not be painful, just annoying – sooner or later you will sit down, take off your shoe and try to remove the irritating object. It all comes down to tolerance, and it is your ego and personality that set these tolerances.

But just like an elastic band, your ego will lose its elasticity if it is always stretched. Through constant over-stretching, it loses its ability to contract back to its original form and becomes damaged. The good news is that by becoming more aware of your situation you can protect the elasticity of your ego. By clearing up perceptions and by removing the tiny stones in your shoe immediately, you won’t have to test the elasticity of your ego.

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 30 November 2013

Does your organisation have a codex?

Pirate Codex for 8 year olds

Pirate Codex for 8 year olds

The other evening I sat down in front of the television with my eldest son. The first film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series was playing and, although I had seen the film on numerous occasions, I was just looking forward to us spending some time together. We were not disappointed and had a great evening. But what caught my attention was the part where the governor’s daughter invoked the right of “Parley” from the Pirate Code when she was captured by Captain Barbossa’s crew. Wow, even pirates have a code of conduct! Come to think of it, so do the Mafia and many other successful organisations nowadays.

As we have learned, a code of conduct can be a powerful motivator and engagement tool when used properly; in fact, it is the foundation of most religions – an example being the 10 Commandments, the ultimate code of conduct. So, what is it about them that makes them effective?

Clarity – Both the rules and the consequences of not following the rules are clear, and everyone knows and understands them. Knowing the boundaries of the framework in which we live and/or work promotes trust.

Common understanding  ­–­ Being able to trust that everyone else in the organisation will follow the same rules reinforces our sense of security.

Fairness – The rules are the same for all. A sense of justice is achieved by everyone living and working by the same guidelines, no matter what their position is in the organisation.

Nowadays, it’s not surprising that companies strive to establish common values and a distinct culture, as they have understood the power of codes of conduct. But beware – codes of conduct are like a double-edged sword: for all the positive energy that they can bring about, there is a lot of damage that they can do, as well. Only those prepared to follow all three points above can succeed.

If the rules are complicated and not clear, leaving room for interpretation, then people will invariably interpret situations differently, and this will ultimately undermine trust. If they can’t be sure that everyone is acting according to the rules, then people will become insecure and secretive. If the rules are not applied to everyone, then there will be no role models and no justice – sooner or later, this results in a “what can I get away with” attitude.

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 31 October 2013

When did you last stop to smell the flowers?

Much has been said about the power of the moment. Books have been written telling us to focus on the most important time in our lives: not the past nor the future, but the present – the now. And, indeed, the present is where it’s at!
The present is where we make decisions and take action, and it is these actions that determine our future and create the memories that will, tomorrow, be our past. We process many of these decisions and corresponding actions almost unconsciously, but it is precisely this capability that is also our weakness, as it allows us to get distracted. In today’s world everyone demands our attention. Where the industrial revolution gave us more time by simplifying manual tasks (and in some circumstances removing them altogether), the information revolution is consuming more and more of our time. The difference is that now we have a choice: our devices have an off switch – and we should use these more often.

As I look back over the decades at the growth of consumerism, I can see that, as more and more things became available, companies vied for my money by promising me products with “effortlessness operation” and “lasting quality”. During the occasional visit to my aunt’s, I can remember marveling at her electric can-opener, thinking it was really cool. Fortunately, I never did buy one, as it would now be collecting dust up in the attic – along with the other marvels of health and productivity, like a juicer and an old vacuum cleaner. The industrial revolution brought about consumerism, the excesses of which are, unfortunately, visible not only in my attic, but also in the island of rubbish floating around the Pacific Ocean. But I guess this is the price we pay for what we have today.

www.sodahead.com

Now we have the information revolution, with many companies vying for our time and attention: the new currency. Everything is compressed; the mobile device makes us more productive, yes, but it also makes us a slave to others without even realizing it. Being able to read our emails & finalise a presentation on our iPad, whilst on the beach, may enable us to rethink where we can live; however, it also means we don’t really switch off during our holiday. Let’s face it, some of the stuff we can do with our mobile device can be addictive. Have you ever seen a couple having dinner in a restaurant, each of them with a smart phone in their hands, and, rather than looking each other in the eyes, they are both checking their emails! A perfect example of this new trend is a company called Zinga, which makes some of the most popular social games on Facebook. Last year it generated over 1 billion dollars of revenue from its 250 million users. Many of these users are addicted to the games and spend hours playing them on their computer everyday.

As we continue down the “on demand” path, we have more and more choices available to us at the touch of a button. Our propensity to get distracted grows exponentially, obscuring our ability to enjoy the moment without some kind of electronic stimulation. Of course, it’s a choice and we are the ones that make the choice. But choices are often made subconsciously, like the reflex to check your email when you hear the ping of your portable device. I suggest you consciously turn off your devices for a certain amount of time each day – dinner being one of those times, when you can engage in real dialogue and maybe even practice your storytelling skills. Go for a walk and fill your senses with the beauty of nature: the grandeur of the oak tree, the rustling sound of a river or creek, the sweet smell of blossom in the spring or the relaxing feeling of walking barefoot on a beach. Whichever experience is available to you, spending time reconnecting with nature and people is sure to be time well spent.

Francis Lambert – Zabok, 1 September 2013