Imagine that you are having a cocktail at the bar while you are waiting for your plane to board. A man sits next to you, bumps your arm and you spill your drink. A recent study shows that the more you have been drinking, the more likely it is that you will assume that he did it on purpose. The less rational (or sober) you are, the more likely it is that you will make assumptions about the motives and intentions of others. Often, in leadership training sessions, participants will brag about how clever they are in “sizing people up.” In other words, making assumptions about people. They may say, “Suzie’s just jealous because I got the promotion.” Or, “John will freeze up the minute he is put into a high stakes situation.” While the notion persists that these sorts of intuitive leaps are a trait of good leaders, the evidence does not truly support that. Certainly, decision making is complex and there are many situations where quick thinking has helped avert a crisis or helped a team come up with an innovative solution. Malcolm Gladwell talks about “thinking without thinking” in his book, Blink . In one example, he talks about the Emergency Room doctors at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. The doctors were instructed to gather less information about patients who presented certain symptoms. They were to focus on a small handful of indicators, or as Gladwell puts it, a “thinner slice” of experience. As a result, they were able to improve their success rate in diagnosing and treating chest pain. Airline pilots often make these kinds of decisions. Military leaders often must make such decisions in the heat of battle. In fairness, many executives have become very successful by making quick, apparently seat-of-the-pants decisions based on very little information. Whether this is “intuition” or not remains debatable. The Cook County doctors arguably could not make good diagnostic decisions based on “thinner slices” of experience without many decades of preparation and first-hand experience. The airline pilot can make split second decisions because he or she has been well trained and lived through similar situations thousands of times and can evaluate a lot of information (and eliminate a lot of information) very quickly. The same can be said of the military leader and the corporate executive.
When learning the Gordon Model for leadership training, all the “tools” are taught at one time so they can be built upon each other. Although it is tempting to shorten leadership training by teaching skills in separate learning modules, it’s important that all components be taught together so foundation skills are learned, built upon and then practiced. Effective leadership training should couple skills together so they can be used most effectively, as opposed to learning them separately over a long period of time.
Everybody has a program to increase quality, productivity, employee engagement and the like. (Gamification [believe it or not – using games to get employees engaged], Town Halls, Appreciative Inquiry, Lean Manufacturing, PIPs, Value-Based PIP, TQM, Six Sigma, etc., etc.). Most of these efforts fail. They fail not because they are wrong or because they are bad programs. Many contain lots of useful ideas and, if taken seriously and implemented well, will produce good results for the organization. Every such program includes some sort of leadership training in which the company’s managers are exhorted to be champions and role models. They are reminded that such programs don’t work without senior management support. The managers often sally forth and say all the right things. They spend money on the program.
SOLANA BEACH, CA—On May 1, 2011, Gordon Training International will be a sponsor of the “Walk away from domestic violence” 5k walk to benefit the Women’s Resource Center (WRC) of Oceanside, CA. The WRC provides shelter, education and resources for abused women and their children for up to two years. Gordon Training International will have a booth at the event as well to provide information on their parenting program, P.E.T., Parent Effectiveness Training.
This program was developed by Dr. Thomas Gordon, three-time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and founder of Gordon Training International. Also developed by Dr. Gordon is the L.E.T., Leader Effectiveness Training, program that offers leadership training to organizations around the world.
About the Women’s Resource Center
Their goals are to inform, educate, support, advocate, heighten public awareness, provide short-term shelter, provide long-term residential shelter, and reinforce the fact that domestic violence is a crime.
There is an abundance of literature that describes the distinctions between Leadership and Management in organizations. Much of it asserts that Management is of things and processes and Leadership is influencing people-but I find in real life that these distinctions often become blurred, and in fact don’t matter that much anyway. To me, the important thing to consider is that both Leadership and Management are concerned with influencing behavior and results through others, though through use of different tools. However, one thing that is common among both of these disciplines is a tendency to define them as control mechanisms rather than developmental opportunities.
We reward heroic effort. Every company has stories about individuals who worked tirelessly to overcome crushing opposition to bring a product in on time or introduce a new line, or appease the biggest client who was about to defect. Or, they tell of individuals who performed extreme acts to help the company, like the manager who hadn’t used any of his vacation time for 12 years. Or, the machine operator who ran the department alone during the entire 3rd shift. “Holy Batman!” But who are the real heroes? Are they the ones whose exploits we hear about when we first come to work at the company? Are they the idolized CEO’s who “saved” the company from bankruptcy? Maybe! But maybe they are the “grunts” who come to work every day and do the tedious, mind-numbing work that must be done. We have a tendency to applaud extreme acts. There are certainly times and places when extreme action is called for and those with the skills and courage to meet those challenges should certainly be given their due. Soldiers, fire-fighters, police officers, EMT’s who risk their lives to help others are, no doubt, legitimate heroes. But, there is something about hero worship that is not so desirable. There is, I believe, a sort of deep need to look outside of ourselves to find greatness. Few of us still idolize Tiger Woods or O.J. Simpson. LeBron James (wait and see)? Or, what about the idolization of “super heroes?” Is it good or bad to worship Superman or Spiderman? (I’m sort of a Batman enthusiast. At least I don’t have to develop mystical superpowers to be Batman, just lots of money and technology). Some would argue that it is good to have someone to look up to; someone with the kinds of attributes that we should aspire to. Maybe! But there is also a danger in overemphasizing the extraordinary. It makes the ordinary (all of those things that must be done to make a team or a company successful) seem dull and uninteresting. Team members might conclude, “Why bother? No one appreciates all of this hard work. It’s only the superheroes who get the raises and promotions.” Or, “I will never have the kind of ability to do what she does so I might as well give up.” Or, “He’s not such a hero. He’s just the boss’ favorite. His accomplishments are blown out of proportion. It’s not fair.”
Firstly, it is not O.K. for an air traffic controller or a nuclear power plant operator or a truck driver or an “Iraq Green Zone” sentry or an anesthetist to take a nap while on duty. No one disagrees with that. But, that is not really what the recent controversy over air traffic controllers is all about. The question is what to do about it. Is there some shared responsibility? Does some of the accountability fall on the leaders of the organization? During an assignment at a nuclear power plant, my client had primary responsibility for assessing “human factors” following any reportable incident. One of his very first reports involved an accident in which a supervisor was injured from a fall from scaffolding. My client investigated, interviewed all those involved and concluded that fatigue was, at least, a partial contributor. The supervisor had been working extremely long hours and the accident occurred in the wee hours of the morning at the end of an especially trying shift. After submitting his report, his “superiors” sent the report back with instructions to excise the paragraphs about fatigue. According to them, the supervisor had not been asked to work beyond the legal limits so the issue of fatigue should not even be a factor. My client was understandably disappointed and frustrated. Any effort to examine the scheduling procedures was eliminated.
“Do it, or else!” Even when the “or else” is vague or not well understood, such a statement, explicit or implied, can cause significant stress. This is especially true when the command comes from someone with a lot of power. If we have little power, we tend to respond in very predictable ways. For decades, psychologists have described the automatic ways that human beings respond to stress with the phrases, fight, flight, or submit. There are many ways to fight, run, or give in. We will discuss a few of those mechanisms as they often appear in the workplace.
A great by-product of certain leadership training workshops is higher levels of creativity. When you learn the skills within L.E.T., you can create an environment where people feel safe to toss their ideas into the hat. They feel supported and listened to when they share new ideas with the group. Creating an environment with these leadership training skills sparks creativity within people and teams, because they know they won’t get criticized for speaking up—that they have the freedom to open up. This type of leadership training helps people tap into their potential and the more leaders can do that, the better.
A friend of mine is having a problem with her boss. (This is not, by the way, one of those “I have a friend” cases where in the friend is actually me, honest.)
In the topsy-turvy economic ups and downs of the last couple of years, a fair number of people have ended up doing different jobs than they used to do. I’m one of them, and I’ve been lucky. My new position’s a great fit. My friend, Olive*, on the other hand, is struggling.
Driven, highly skilled, vivacious, and spunky, Olive is a former Director who’s used to leading a half-dozen staff members. She’s also used to achieving at a very high level.
A corporate re-organization moved her into a different department six months ago and significantly shrunk her scope of duties. She’s now reporting to a new boss–one whose heart is in the right place and who has every intention of being welcoming, supportive and encouraging.
In school, most of us were taught how to speak, how to present clearly, how to make a good argument, defend a position, ask questions, make a point, but few of us have been taught how to listen. We may have been told to listen or scolded for not listening but seldom taught how to do a better job of it. So, we grow up thinking that listening is “not” doing something. That it is passive. We are either good at it or not. But that is not really true. Listening is a skill that can be learned and developed like any other skill.
I know of very few leadership training classes that don’t mention listening. But most still present it as, “You should listen better.” While it is true that most of us “should” listen better, that doesn’t really help us a great deal. Even those that promote active listening, often do so in such a superficial way that it does more harm than good. But why is it so important? It is a leadership behavior that influences every facet of organizational performance.
April 11, 2011 – SOLANA BEACH, CA – Over 30,000 kids in Finland have now taken a program by Gordon Training International called Youth Effectiveness Training (Y.E.T.) Finland is one of several countries offering this program to youths. Next month in May, they will celebrate 30 years of Y.E.T. in Finland.
Youth Effectiveness Training (Y.E.T.) is a program that offers skills to help adolescents take more responsibility for their own needs and decisions. They learn how to develop better relationships with their friends, family members and teachers. It’s designed for kids (ages 12-18). The program was developed by Dr. Thomas Gordon, three-time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and creator of the parenting program, Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and leadership training program, Leader Effectiveness Training (L.E.T.)
Daniel Goleman in his book “primal leadership” proposes that the main job of leaders is to encourage the positive feelings from their staff. We are not talking about fluffy feel good programs or implying that managers cannot be demanding or have high expectations of performance. This is simply saying that people are far more productive when they have positive energy and deploy it for a common cause or purpose.
In my leadership training programs, participants often express that there is frequently a distance that exists between management and the workforce-even at the supervisory level. Management looks for program to drive employee thinking and feeling (detailed bonus plans, rules and policy, employee benefit structures, etc).
Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? The economy is getting better. Sort of. But, maybe not. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what’s going to happen? Wouldn’t it be nice if your organization’s leaders could see into the future and map out sure-fire strategies for making sure the company stays profitable for a long, long time? But, no one can do that and no amount of leadership training can teach you to foretell the future. We can collect and analyze data, consult actuarial tables, conduct surveys, and evaluate options, but we never know if our chosen actions will produce the results we want. Every day, we must live with uncertainty. Ambiguity is a fact of life at home, and at work.
“Whoa…you want to take a leadership training workshop that takes how long? There’s no way we can function without you at your desk for three whole days!” This is a common concern for some people—time away from their jobs to attend training. Another way to look at this is? This leadership training is 21-hour investment of time to help people learn skills to help them perform their jobs more effectively. They will be saving time because after leadership training (a la L.E.T.), they will be equipped with skills that will empower them to address issues quickly, resolve them, reduce and prevent conflicts and more. They will learn to solve their own issues without always bringing them to you to fix. Think of the time that will save YOU.
Having little patience with management “happy talk,” I have a tendency to respond to new corporate jargon with skepticism. Calling a new position “Business Development” doesn’t mean it’s not a sales job. A “restructuring”, or a “realignment” doesn’t mean it’s not a layoff. Most of us can read between the lines. A participant in a leadership training workshop tells this story. He is an engineer in a manufacturing facility who is responsible for designing and acquiring new equipment. There is a piece of software that would help him better assess the impact of certain kinds of equipment changes on the production flow in his area of responsibility. For several weeks, he had been asking purchasing to acquire the software. Since he was the only one who would be using it, he was told (you guessed it), “There is no “I” in “Team.” So, an important member of the team was made to feel like a knuckle-dragging miscreant for making an entirely reasonable request. Fulfillment of that request would have benefited the entire team. This kind of thing happens with regrettable regularity and indicates a profound misunderstanding of what a team is. A team is a group of people with a function to perform that requires their interdependence for success. They need each other to produce a satisfactory result. As such, it is important for each team member to recognize and respect the needs of the team. It does not mean that the individual disappears. Nor does it mean that the needs of the individual team members become unimportant. Nor does it mean that a team member who tries to meet his or her important needs is not a “team player.” In fact, teams who fail to recognize this have trouble achieving their goals. Part of the team’s responsibility is to help its members succeed. That means listening to the individual team members as well as holding them accountable for completing their important team tasks.
Enough is enough! Ever felt like giving up? We all have felt that way at some time. It can be discouraging to keep working at something and not see results. Promises that things will get better in the future don’t help much in the present. There are many endeavors that have thresholds that must be reached before any results can be seen. Examples may include: retirement planning, fitness regimens, staff and leadership development, playing the violin, etc. The day-to-day effort can seem tedious and frustrating until one day you realize, “Wow, I have a bunch of money in the bank for retirement.” Or, “I can actually make music on my violin.” Sometimes leadership training, team building, marketing a new product, and organization development can seem a lot like this. Malcolm Gladwell discusses this phenomenon in his popular book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. There are also thresholds on the way down. That is, little by little, things keep getting worse until, “boom,” it seems that everything falls apart at once. By now, we have all heard of the “boiled frog” phenomenon. Apparently, if you drop a frog into a pan of boiling water (Who would do such a thing?), it will hop right out, presumably as most living creatures would do. On the other hand, if you put the frog into a pan of cold water then gradually turn the heat up, it will remain in the water until it is cooked to a crisp (Somebody must have actually done this.). Illnesses, plaque build-up, credit card debt, excess weight and so on are examples of phenomena that “creep up” on us but seem to occur suddenly. In international disputes (wars), politicians talk about “mission creep.”
Is classroom training really the most effective (re: time, money, energy) way to provide skill training for leaders, managers and the like? Wouldn’t on-line training be a better way to go? If you really want to improve your people skills, do you need to be with people, in person, to learn, develop and practice leadership training skills? Check out the video to learn more.
My son is almost 18 years old, and one of my biggest challenges is sitting back and letting him make his own decisions. The way I see it, I’ve lived a full life and I know what’s best, so if he just took my advice his life would be a whole lot easier. But he can’t (and shouldn’t!) do that because my solutions are exactly that – MINE. By offering him advice and giving him a bucket of “should’s” I’m standing resolutely in the way of his development, and ultimately creating the opposite of what needs to happen.
It’s like the Prime Directive in Star Trek, “no interference.” Starfleet Command says explicitly that you can’t interfere with the path others are on. I can’t interfere in my son’s life just because we have what Dr. Gordon called a “values collision.” And as frustrating as it might be, I have to accept that he may have a different path to his goal. And for that matter, a different goal in his life than I might want him to have.
In some ways, consistency is the enemy of good leadership. I often hear supervisors tell me, “In that supervisor training class I took last year, they told me the most important thing a supervisor can do is to be consistent. So, I treat everyone the same.” If that were true, that good leadership meant treating everyone the same, you wouldn’t need leaders at all. We could just replace them with computers. Certainly, we should try to be “consistently” fair and competent and avoid playing favorites and such. That is what most employees probably mean when they ask their leaders to be consistent. But, consistency is not the same thing as fairness. People are different. They have different needs. Situations demand different approaches. Even Blanchard’s Situational Leadership acknowledges that leaders need to alter their approach according to the level of experience and motivation of the team members. Ralph Waldo Emerson famously wrote, “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”