Archive | May, 2011

THANK YOU for Your Service

Thank you for your service.

I was traveling back from a week-long conference. I’d been on my feet for three days straight. I’d signed my book for dozens of folks in our booth. Up late every night dining with old & new friends. It was a fabulous time – AND – I was ready to head home. However, mechanical problems with the aircraft caused our flight to be delayed three hours.

I’m pretty stoic about these delays. Nothing I can do about it; no action on my part will make the plane get here sooner. I glanced around the gate area and noticed an active military member in uniform awaiting the same flight to Denver.

I walked up to him, put out my hand, and said, “Thank you for your service to our country.” He shook my hand and smiled, then said, “Thank you.” I found I was unable to say anything more as I was a little choked up. I patted him on the shoulder and headed back to my seat.

I thought back to my college days in the early 70’s when returning veterans of the Vietnam war were NOT received kindly. Those men and women gave their all when their country asked them to serve. Some did not return home alive from that war. Those that did were not always graciously thanked.

The photo above is of the US Navy honor guard folding the flag at my delightful Dad‘s funeral service early this month. Dad was a US Navy veteran of WWII. Those returning vets found ticker-tape parades, hearty hugs, handshakes, jobs, home loans, and more. These benefits and much more were well deserved!

Dad is interred at the National Veterans Cemetery in Riverside, CA. His brother, Harry Edmonds, who also served in the US Navy during WWII, is interred there, too. Dad wanted to be with his brother – when the time came.

Sobering was the information I learned when we were scheduling Dad’s service. The Riverside National Cemetery hosts 30-35 services PER DAY, Monday through Friday. Many of these services are for active military members who were killed in current conflicts. Family members of these veterans are comforted knowing that their grateful country provides final resting places at no cost.

AND, we can do better for our active service members and their families. A recent U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled in favor of two veterans’ associations who sued the Department of Veterans Affairs for its treatment of mentally ill vets. You can read the decision here. We’re working at providing services for injured veterans more quickly. And, we’re not doing right by all veterans, yet.

We, as a country, are better than this. We must focus efforts to remove any hurdles to prompt, top quality, and efficient services for veterans and their families.

On this Memorial Day in the USA, I offer prayers of thanks for past service by our veterans and prayers of safekeeping for our active military personnel in harms way.

Beyond that, there is something each one of us can do. When you see an active service member, stop them for a minute and just say, “Thank you for your service.” That personal connection, that two minute interaction, can make a huge difference to a veteran.


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.”

Crush Stupid Policies

Years ago I discovered something about organizations and policy creation.

The client was a municipal government – city, not county or state. I was teaching a leadership program and participants were very pleased with the models, tools, and techniques the program presented.

At one point during the afternoon, one woman – let’s call her Joyce – shared her frustrations with a woman in her office (who was not attending my program). Joyce explained that this peer of hers had a unique role which placed her in a “gatekeeper” position. This peer – let’s call her Roberta – touched key projects at key times, moving paperwork to decision makers for approval, scheduling meetings of decision makers with project staff, etc. Roberta had a tendency to move more quickly on activities that her “work friends” would benefit by, and she allowed other activities to sit, untouched. Sometimes for days.

Roberta’s inconsistencies caused much consternation to Joyce and to others in the room. I was about to inquire about how the group has tried to address these issues when Joyce stated, “And Roberta is ‘Employee of the Month’ this month!”

I’m certain that my shock was quite apparent; I felt like my jaw dropped to the floor. I sputtered a moment then asked Joyce, “Why would you select Roberta as ‘Employee of the Month’?” Joyce looked at me and calmly said, “It was her turn.”

The class and I spoke awhile about stupid policies; this “EOTM” policy certainly qualified. Most stupid policies don’t start out stupid. They are intended to “protect & serve” but can evolve into something not good. Employee of the Month programs typically do not celebrate great contributions or performance, they celebrate moderate contribution and (mostly) tenure. Why would an organization want just ONE Employee of the Month? Wouldn’t you want dozens of terrific employees, all recognized for doing great things every day for customers and for the company?

This particular practice is not unique to municipalities. We’ve all experienced this “good intentions gone wrong” policy issue in all kinds of organizations, all across the globe.

Impact of Stupid Policies

Every team member knows which policies are stupid; they talk about them with their peers all the time! Customers know – and some are quick to point out how dumb those policies are. Stupid policies demoralize staff, alienate customers, and cost your company hard dollar profits.

How can you reduce the negative impact and undesirable consequences of stupid policies? Spend an hour or two each week, seeking input from team members about policies that inhibit great performance. As you discover stupid policies, eliminate them - or, at least, refine them so they have NO negative impact on great performance.

One Blanchard client created a “stupid policies” group whose sole purpose was to identify and eliminate policies that inhibit good decisions, full presence, and full commitment. They celebrated their first year’s successes – cutting a policy manual down from 3″ to 30 pages – with a huge dinner party!

Create Eagles – Not Ducks

Ken Blanchard loves Wayne Dyer‘s story about eagles and ducks. In organizations, ducks are those employees who are bogged down in the stupid policies, rules that no longer serve . . . and are helpless to change things that clearly don’t work. Ducks quack “that’s not my job,” and “I’m sorry, that’s our policy,” and “my computer won’t let me remove that charge from your account,” etc.

Eagles soar above the crowd, doing great things for customers and for the company. They don’t get mired in policies that don’t work; they maneuver around stupid policies to serve the customer and the company fairly.

How high do the eagles soar in your organization?


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.”

Is Yours a “Me” Culture or a “WE” Culture?

My delightful Dad’s funeral service at Riverside National Cemetery was May 3, 2011. During that week, we spent a lot of time driving around Orange County, CA (and out to Riverside) with family.

I’ve noticed this before on my visits “back home,” but I really was struck by California’s car culture on this “springtime” trip. In and around Irvine, Corona del Mar, and Newport Beach, we saw a variety of top end sports cars, sedans, and SUVs on the roads. We enjoyed seeing, among others:

  • A Bentley Continental convertible (about $300K)
  • A Ferarri F40 (about $800K)
  • Porsche sedans (Panameras), sports cars (911s, Boxters), and SUV’s (Cayennes)
  • AMG & Mercedes sedans & coupes
  • Classic muscle cars from the 60’s and 70’s in gorgeous condition

. . . all, of course, with a single driver in the vehicle <sigh>. The “look at me” core of this car culture is very transparent.

I’m definitely a child of the California car culture. I don’t deny it. That’s my old 1983 Porsche 911SC Targa pictured. I owned it from 2000-2005, or maybe I should say it owned me. I loved it when it was running, but fine German engineering requires steady, constant tinkering. I paid mechanics to do that, which they loved. I was ready to let her go when it sold. We drive Honda’s now, and are never surprised when the engine turns over each time you start it.

Logical Consequences of a “Me” Culture

Company cultures can be like this “look at me” car culture, as well. When a company’s culture is focused on individual accomplishment, it can generate “I win/you lose” activities. If your incentives, compensation, and recognition efforts hold individuals up above teams, you can inspire individual success at the cost of team success. If bonus plans reward individuals and not teams, you may see individuals withhold information or grab sales in adjacent territories, for example, to gain those top rewards.

How to create a “WE” Culture

  • Clear goalsteam members want to know what’s expected of them, and they want feedback about progress. With clear individual AND team goals, assessing progress and accomplishment is much easier for peers and bosses. Be sure to add team goals so that cooperative interaction is required among team members.
  • Define Values – clearly describe how a great corporate citizen should behave by defining desired valued behaviors. With behavioral definitions, values become tangible, observable, and measurable. Ensure your valued behaviors include both individual AND team member behaviors.
  • Hold all staff accountable for bothequally emphasize and celebrate goal progress and demonstration of valued behaviors. Redirect or reprimand those that miss goals and choose not to live your organization’s values. Remember the importance of consistent incentives and messaging. If you’re “talking” team cooperation but incent only individual accomplishment, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Every second, every day.

Start with YOUR Team

You don’t need to be a senior leader to refine culture. You can refine culture in your intact team, often easier and faster than a larger organizational intervention would occur.

Learn more best practices for a “WE” culture in my book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet, available direct and on Amazon.

In the comments section below, tell me about your experiences in “Me” or “WE” organizational cultures.


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.”

Three Indicators of a Healthy Culture

Do you know what employees think about your company, your leaders, and your work environment? For you to understand the true impact – good or not so good – of your organization’s culture, you must see it from your employees’ perspective.

What prompted this post? I had a blood test the other day. I’m a heart patient. I had a myocardial infarction in December ’93 (a “heart attack” for us lay people). I had three blockages in my heart vessels: two were closed 80% and one was closed 90%. I was lucky; angioplasty cleared the blockages. I’ve been a “good patient” since. I lost weight, changed my diet, and more. I’ve been on heart medications since that day, and will be for the rest of my life.

I do blood panels 2-3 times each year, because my blood chemistry shows exactly how well my body is doing with my “norms & practices.” The impact of my medications, my diet, my exercise, etc. can all be read clearly in my blood panel readouts. No excuses – it’s all right there, in black & white.

Leaders must pay attention to the “life blood” of their organization  – regularly, honestly, openly. They must notice both desirable behaviors and undesirable behaviors which occur in their work environment. They can then celebrate and nurture the desirable behaviors and quash the undesirable behaviors.

What Key Indicators Are Important to Notice?

Consider this effort an exploration, an opportunity to discover the reality of your organization’s culture. Focus on these three key indicators:

  • The Quality of Relationships
    First, assess the quality of relationships across the organization – leaders to leaders, employees to leaders, employees to employees, and staff to customers. Are others (be they leaders, employees, or customers) honored and respected or seen as “less than valuable”? If trusted relationships exist, you’ll see it, hear it, feel it in many ways. Look for:  

    • Laughter WITH not AT others.
    • Genuine appreciation expressed – up, down, and across your organizational structure.
    • People help others with critical tasks – you don’t hear “that’s not my job,” you hear “we’re all in this together.” 
    • People aren’t problems – problems are problems.
    • People smile more than they don’t smile.
  • The Quality of Promises
    How strong are team members’ commitments to their commitments?
    If leaders and employees make and keep their promises, you’ll see strong trust and respect across the organization. If promises are not made and kept, you’ll see frustration and self-serving behaviors.
    You want to see peers holding peers accountable for their commitments. People are direct and assertive when promises are missed, and they are quick to thank others for keeping their promises.
    If circumstances occur that might cause commitments to be missed, the promise keeper lets all stakeholders (in the commitment) know well in advance.
    Promises to customers are no more and no less important than promises to peers.
  • The Quality of Delivery
    This is often the only area scrutinized by organization leaders.
    It is equal in importance with the above two qualities. Meeting performance standards for product and/or service delivery is critically important in the social media age. If you screw up on quality of delivery, it’ll be posted on Yelp or Facebook within minutes.
    Think of delivery quality as a subset of promise quality – if promises are made and kept, you’ll rarely have an issue with quality of delivery.
    Clear goals and standards enable performance accountability, but remember that you’re managing people’s hearts, heads, and hands – not just hands (skill application).

Learn more best practices for a healthy organizational culture in my book, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet, available direct and on Amazon.

By the way, my blood panel shows I’m doing great. Please share what you discover in your “life blood” assessment in the comments section 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.”

#CORPORATE CULTURE tweet book released!

I’m very pleased to announce the release of my first “solo” book effort, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet, part of the THiNKaha elite series. My previous book, Leading at a Higher Level, was co-authored with dear friend and mentor Ken Blanchard.

Publisher Mitchell Levy, CEO of THiNKaha, recently told me, “According to my team, my ONE reading of your #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet book has completely changed the way I run my business. Very powerful!”

In #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet, I start at the very beginning – by showing you how to recognize an organization’s culture and identify what a healthy workplace culture looks, acts, and sounds like.

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Sounds trivial? It is not. Oftentimes, surface appearances are deceptive and you need to dig a little to learn the truth. An organization that appears healthy and happy may have large numbers of low-productivity, demotivated employees. Conversely an organization that appears to have plateaued or be driven by a handful of strong personalities may, counter to intuition, boast of stellar performers and consistently upbeat results.

Having shown you how to recognize a healthy organization, I uncover the power of ‘boss behavior.’ Most of us remember our best boss ever, a person who created a work environment that enabled us to perform at our best while being incredibly satisfied with our boss, team, and work. I describe how great bosses behave to ensure that organizational culture standards are maintained and reinforced each day.

Just as culture change is hard for individuals, it is difficult for organizations. It takes discipline and effort to focus on culture management day in and day out. Which is why I also engage you on accountability behaviors and actions that ensure that the desired organizational culture is embedded and acted upon.

#CORPORATE CULTURE tweet is part of the THiNKaha series whose 100-page books contain 140 well-thought-out quotes (tweets/ahas). Written in actionable terms and demonstrating the value that can be delivered in small packages, #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet will find a home on every progressive corporate leader’s bookshelf.

Find #CORPORATE CULTURE tweet at your local retailer, online, through your favorite eReader, or purchase it direct from me by clicking the Paypal Buy Now button wherever it appears on this page.

For books delivered to USA addresses:
For books delivered to INTERNATIONAL addresses:













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.”

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