Archives For January 2011

TRAVEL DAY: destination, Houston Hobby Airport. I boarded my flight first, which is typical for me. I get to the gate early so I can stow my carry-ons and get settled into my seat.

As a traveling consultant living in Denver, direct flight choices boil down to United or Frontier. Unlike my experiences on United, Frontier’s planes are new and their staff actually enjoy their work! For six years I’ve been a top-tier Frontier frequent flier: a “Summit” member.

This flight was full, and staff were begging fliers to get into their seats so the plane could push away from the gate on time. We taxied out to our runway. The plane lined up and the pilot boosted the throttle. Jets screaming, we began rolling – and immediately the pilot slowed the engines and taxied us off the active runway.

In my experience, this doesn’t happen often. Once a plane is in position to take off, the crew doesn’t give up that position casually. As we taxied to a waiting area, the pilot announced that a passenger was having medical issues. Rather than take off and have to deal with that issue at 35,000 feet above sea level, he felt it was best to check on the passenger on the ground, close to medical personnel, if they were required.

I was up front and couldn’t see which of my fellow passengers was in distress. I figured it’d be awhile before we knew anything, so I said a little prayer for the passenger, cranked up the iPad, and began reading.

Within five minutes, the pilot was on the PA updating the situation. He explained that the passenger’s doctor had evaluated his condition and approved him flying today. The pilot had a call in to Frontier’s medical staff to see if they were OK with going ahead with the flight. The pilot said we could use our cell phones to notify family or friends that our arrival would be delayed into Houston.

The frequency of communication was unusual. Normal behavior by flight crews is to focus on solving the problem; informing passengers about what’s going on is WAY down the to-do list. This pilot was proactively sharing status of the issue while demonstrating sincere concern for the ill passenger.

Ten minutes later the pilot announced that we’d gotten clearance to fly on to Houston and our ill passenger was comfortable. The flight computers indicated we’d arrive only fifteen minutes late, for which he apologized. We were next for departure; the jets were restarted and we headed to Houston.

As we reached cruising altitude, I reflected on the pilot’s behavior. It is clear that Frontier’s culture encourages staff to do the right thing, in the moment. The pilot’s proactive communication enabled us passengers to know what the cause of the delay was and what the team was doing to resolve the issue. He kept us updated, simply and efficiently.

Companies should take heed: with purpose and values clear, let players do their jobs on their playing field. They’ll be inspired to do what this pilot did, keeping customers fully informed rather than simply focusing on the issue at hand.

One more thing. As we approached Houston Hobby, the flight attendants came through the cabin and handed every frequent flier a personalized business card from pilot David Starkes, thanking us for our business and our patience during the flight’s delay. That’s amazing customer service.

What is YOUR experience with customer service in today’s marketplace? Join in the conversation below.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I am a bit of a tinkerer. I am somewhat skilled at handyman activities. I typically am confident that I can do a job or task quickly. At times, however, I get into a task that is well beyond my skills. How I have learned to recognize and cope with that scenario may shed light on how leaders can deal with similar circumstances.

The Wiring Challenge

I am a working musician in my free time (check out the Jones & Raine band on Twitter, Facebook, and on the web). I have a nice collection of instruments that inspire me. I’ve upgraded over the years, often trading newer instruments for vintage ones. With some of these instruments, I tinker.

My “opportunities” come when I think a job will be easy and it turns out to be much more difficult than I had imagined. This is one of those times. The guitar in the clickable photo above is a 2001 Fender Custom Shop Telecaster. It was a “player’s guitar,” worn but played great! I didn’t like the sound of the original pickups. I already have another Telecaster with classic Fender pickups. I thought, “I can soldier, how tough can it be?” I pulled the original pickups and bought a different set. I also decided to replace the standard three-way switch to a cool five-way switch (vastly increases the tones you can get from the two pickups).

I installed the pickups without difficulty and routed the wires to the switch cavity. I checked out some wiring diagrams on the web but none showed the same way to wire the new switch! I tried following one diagram; I got sound from the pickups but the different switch settings did not work <sigh>. I’d reached the limits of my knowledge base and skills.

Despite that realization, I continued to futz with the wiring for a couple of weeks. I reviewed numerous diagrams on the web, trying various ways to get the switch to work properly. I finally came to the conclusion that 1) I wasn’t going to fix this on my own and 2) I needed expert help.

The good news is I sent the above photo to friend and expert luthier Tony Nobles in Wimberly, TX who, with one email, directed me exactly which wire needed to be soldiered to which spot on the switch. It took me 15 minutes to follow his instructions, put the guitar back together, and hear remarkable tones from those pickups.

The Moment of Realization

Some of you are thinking, “Why’d it take you two weeks to reach out to your expert?” For many leaders, they want to be right and they want to figure it out for themselves. Admitting they don’t know what they’re doing or they don’t know how to fix an issue is seen as a sign of weakness. Leaders want staff to be confident in them and follow them. Many leaders are convinced that staff will not follow them if the they reveal a lack of competence. At anything.

The reality is that I can’t know what to do in every situation or how to fix any problem. My best bosses always created a safe environment to share not only what we knew but what we didn’t know. I’ve evolved as a leader and believe I am much faster today to:

  1. Admit I’m struggling and don’t know exactly how to best fix an issue, and
  2. Ask specifically for others’ help to fix that issue.

One last note: that Telecaster now has a different set of pickups (fourth set) and has a b-bender installed by Gene Parsons. Always tinkering!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Astrology fans who follow the stars were not amused at the articles this week noting that the Zodiac charts were off by a month (see the follow up story to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s original piece). Much drama ensued as believers used the internet to express their anger at changes to their star-driven horoscopes.

Believers have a great deal invested in the Zodiac. The guidance their daily horoscope offers provides them comfort. Couples often have their signs analyzed to learn how compatible their chosen mate is to them. And exactly what are Zodiac-sign-tattooed believers to do if they now fall under the new 13th sign, that of Ophiuchus?

The good news for Westerners is that their Zodiac chart has actually NOT changed. CNN states in their article that “astrology experts say the shift in zodiac signs does not apply to most Westerners, who follow the tropical zodiac, which is fixed to the seasons. The Star-Tribune article referred to the sidereal zodiac, which is fixed to constellations and is followed more in the East.”

Organizational leaders can learn a great deal from this episode. These reactions to the shifting Zodiac are exactly how staff react when a change is announced in their organizations!

Common Reactions to Change

Senior leaders typically expect to see this sequence: 1) announce the change, and everyone will 2) implement the change. Change NEVER works out that way.

People go through predictable stages of reactions to change. Blanchard’s research-based program, Leading People Through Change, provides insights into their concerns. These stages are individual (individual players will go through each stage at different speeds) and sequential - players will not move to the next stage of concern until their needs have been met at the previous stage. We examine the first three phases in this post.

  1. The first phase is information concerns – people want to know what exactly the change is, why is it needed, how much change at how fast a pace, etc. Once information concerns have been addressed, players will move to . . .
  2. The second phase: personal concerns – people want to know how the change will play out for them, what’s in it for them, what will I give up, what will I gain over time, etc. When personal concerns have been addressed – and these concerns can widely vary across a workforce – players will move to . . .
  3. The third phase: implementation concerns – people are able to focus on how the change will be put into action, what the plan is, how will people be held accountable, what resources will be available, etc.

Savvy change leaders know that these initial stages of concern must be thoroughly addressed for the desired change to take hold.

How to Help Staff Embrace Change

There are four basic ordered steps in a change leader’s action plan to help staff embrace a needed change:

  1. Educate - Describe the change fully – or as fully as you can at this stage. Share the business case for the change – what in the business environment is driving this change? What are the costs – time, dollars, customers, opportunity – of not making this change?
  2. Involve - Offer numerous opportunities for staff to examine the change, to suggest how to make the change more efficient, etc. Build buy-in with these conversations.
  3. Embed - Create systemic support for the new behaviors; the change will not endure without systems refinements. With staff involvement, modify delivery systems, performance systems, etc.
  4. Refine - Over time, continue staff involvement to tweak the change (and supporting systems) to enhance the benefits of the new approach(es).

What is your experience with staff embracing or resisting change? Join in the conversation!


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I’ve been very lucky throughout my career to be attracted to jobs and opportunities where I’ve worked with people who share my values and life principles. There have been times when I’ve engaged in project work with players who were clearly not values-aligned with me . . . and much learning resulted!

I have bragged about one of my best bosses, Jerry Nutter  (a long time executive with YMCAs in California) in previous posts. Jerry taught me to observe others’ behavior as “that will give you insights into their values” and to surround myself with values-aligned people. “Life is too short,” Nutter explained, “to do otherwise.”

Day-to-Day Decisions and Behavior Reveal Values

You likely have seen these behaviors in the workplace during your career:

  • engaging in gossip
  • withholding information from peers to make oneself look better/smarter/more productive
  • teasing and/or making fun (sometimes in the name of “team-building” <sigh>)
  • complaining about someone’s behavior to a peer, team lead, or boss without going directly to that person to address the concern

These and dozens of other similar behaviors happen in organizations every day. If your organization’s has not intentionally defined their desired culture and values base, norms often evolve that tolerate (and even support) behaviors like these.

Decisions reveal values in the workplace, as well. If you’ve had a boss belittle a team member (in front of them or behind their back), take credit for work others have done, or promised to do “X” yet moments later did the exact opposite, you are seeing the values they embrace.

The Hole In One

I experienced an epiphany about values mis-alignment years ago on the golf course. A work colleague and I enjoyed golf, and began playing together at a local course on Saturdays. This colleague (let’s call him Bill) had a reputation in the company for making fast decisions that served him and his team well . . . even if it meant stepping on toes. I’d seen Bill publicly belittle others more than once, so had that gnawing feeling in my gut about this gentleman’s values. I was always on guard around Bill, even outside the workplace.

We approached the par 3 17th hole and Bill set up his tee shot. He pushed the ball into the greenside creek. He cursed up a storm while placing another ball on the tee. He swung and hit a very nice shot towards the pin. It took one bounce and dove into the cup!

I said, “Nice par!” Bill’s first ball in the water cost him a penalty stroke, so he was hitting his third stroke on the tee. Bill looked at me angrily and said, “I’m taking that as a hole in one!” I was not surprised at Bill’s self-serving stroke tallying . . . but realized at that moment that I was at fault by spending time on the golf course with someone whose values were very different than mine. I fixed that immediately – I preferred playing golf with strangers than with Bill.

Do The Right Thing for Your Sanity, Productivity, and Spirit

Being around values mis-aligned people lowers trust, discretionary energy, and performance. Our research suggests three key steps to values-aligned experiences:

  1. Be clear on your own values. Define the behaviors you will demonstrate when you are living your values, and take time regularly to reflect on how you’re doing with modeling those valued behaviors.
  2. Observe the decisions and behaviors of others. It is not your responsibility to change their values, but it is up to you to insulate yourself from those whose values are inconsistent with your own.
  3. Actively cherish and celebrate the people around you who DO share your values.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Does your workplace tolerate bullying of any type? A recent article in USA Today explains that one in three adults has experienced workplace bullying (according to research administered by Zogby International earlier this year for the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI)). I learned a great deal about the WBI’s important work because of this article.

A Short History of the Workplace Bullying Institute

Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie founded their initial campaign against workplace bullying in 1998. In 2002, their campaign became the Workplace Bullying Institute to better reflect the research contribution made to the international fight against workplace bullying. The WBI remains the sole North American nonprofit organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying through education, research, and legislative advocacy.

Key findings of the institute’s 2010 national survey on bullying revealed:

  • 35% of workers have experienced bullying firsthand
  • 62% of bullies are men; 58% of targets are women
  • Women bullies target women in 80% of cases
  • Bullying is four (4) times more prevalent than illegal harassment
  • The majority (68%) of bullying is same-gender harassment

Bullying causes immense personal grief as well as inhibiting employee work performance and work passion. It is all too common that bullying is ignored in organizations. Bullying often takes the form of subtle behaviors over time as opposed to bold actions – so, it can be difficult to gauge if a particular boss or employee is bullying.

Bottom line: if bullying behavior exists in any form in your workplace, you will not maintain a high performance, values-aligned culture!

Organizations are slowly taking heed – as are lawmakers. A July ’10 article in Time magazine highlighted legislative efforts to address workplace bullying.

Two visible efforts to eliminate workplace bullying include:

  • The carefully crafted culture at Netflix (see my post on this organization’s intentional culture). CEO Reed Hastings and his colleagues at Netflix are adamant that they want stunning colleagues, not brilliant jerks. Hastings says that, with jerks, the cost to teamwork is too high! If brilliant jerks are discovered after they’ve been hired, they are offered a severance package and released from employment, quickly.
  • Bob Sutton‘s fabulous – if bold – book, No Asshole Rule. Sutton, a Stanford University professor, did in-depth research on the hard-dollar cost of assholes in the workplace. The numbers will astound you. His advice? Toss ‘em. As quickly as you can. Sutton’s newest book, Good Boss, Bad Boss, has garnered top honors among this year’s business literature. In it, he presents specific action steps for bosses to create a safe, humane workplace that enables performance and passion.

Blanchard’s Proven Solution Eliminates Bullying

Our award-winning, proven culture change process provides senior leaders with the tools to eliminate workplace bullying. There are three steps – senior leaders must:

  1. Define their organization’s purpose and values, including clear descriptions of how each value will look like behaviorally. Seek feedback from employees to ensure they contribute to the final purpose & values statement (this also creates buy-in for the new cultural norms).
  2. Clarify performance expectations for every player at every level. Ensure that goals are SMART – specific and measurable, motivating, attainable, relevant, and trackable & timebound. Staff need to know what a good job looks like, and a performance plan with SMART goals does that beautifully.
  3. Hold all staff accountable for both performance and values. Praise and celebrate those performing well while demonstrating valued behaviors. Coach, monitor, and (as needed) replace those who either do not perform well or do not demonstrate desired values.

A vital part of step three above is the creation and administration of a custom values survey, completed by all staff regularly (at least every six months). This survey will gather hard data on the extent to which bosses and employees demonstrate desired valued behaviors. It provides undeniable proof of good and not-so-good citizens.


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”