Multitudes of career climbing Managers are absolutely obsessed with the mentation of securing the Credit for an Idea.  These grasping self-image constructors maneuver situations, twist conversations, compose politics, and employ devious tactics, to insure they receive the credit “they deserve”; all in the name of their own fair play.  They are convinced and believe their ideas are uniquely exceptional to the pool of creative

Taking Credit for Ideas

thought and without their brilliant sentiments the organization would be immovable in its own mire.   At best they are braggarts; at worst self-centered egotist set on marginalizing everyone around them.  Focused on “scoring points” as their primary “get ahead” strategy they calculate moves like a Chess master purposefully moving pieces into play.  Their intent of gaining the advantage and capture of “credit for the idea” sets up a win-lose game in which they must prevail.

These lustful credit abductors often become boisterous and obnoxious as they brag about the origin of their thought.  They insist the whole world fathom and concede the origination and proprietorship of their idea, so there will be no doubt who should receive the credit for it.

If the idea is fruitfully implemented, they crave the need to thrust themselves out front of the Team in an attempt to claim a personal victory.  When their boss gets credit for an idea’s successful execution, the credit monger feels slighted, undermined, and even pilfered.  Without their due credit rancor builds manifesting a bitter victim, bent getting even.  This “Go or No Go” Strategy based on credit redemption results in a half accomplished agenda at best.

These credit monger Managers promote their ideas at every turn for one primary reason.  If the idea works out, they expect recognition and praise showered upon them as an individual.  They expect their future value to increase over those around them as they take one more step up the ladder of success.  After all, without their idea, wouldn’t everyone else have lingered lost and hopeless?  Of course, should the idea fail they

Taking the Credit

quickly fade into the background orphaning the failure as unequivocally and neatly as possible.

So what is the debauchery with a little “blowing your own horn” and taking credit for a legitimate idea.  After all, there is undoubtedly nothing wrong with producing breakthrough ideas.  It is an imperative portion of every Leader’s trade to do precisely this – create great ideas.  Much of a Manager’s success will be determined not only by his ability to generate great ideas, but his capacity to effectively implement them with his Team and meet the organization’s goals.  However, when an idea’s path and strategy is manipulated and cajoled in an effort to attain the net gain of getting credit for it, a Manager has stopped thinking about what is best for the company and has selfishly focused on his own pride.

Leaders advance their position, improve their stature, and fortify their power base through the operative implementation of ideas.  It is the idea’s results that ultimately matters.  Strong and effective Leaders realize the price paid for focusing on “getting the credit” is too high to pay.  Taking credit is the #1 obstacle to getting things done.

Once rewards are secured to idea creation two things begin to happen.  First, people begin to pick and choose the ideas they put forth based on their calculated assessment of their own self-interest moving forward.  This premeditation stunts creativity, shuts down brainstorming, and undermines collaborative efforts.  Secondly, they arise to shoot down and kill the ideas of others.  Why should they work hard on another’s idea if the glory only goes to the originator?

As a Leader you must focus yourself and your Team on the execution of ideas and the accomplishment of goals if you want true enduring recognition and success.  You must be willing to forgo the boasting and the “pats on the back” for your great ideas and shift the focus continually to the efforts of the Team’s accomplishments

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit”.

President Harry S. Truman

 President Harry Truman

The speediest and most assured method to advance momentum for an idea is to “give the credit away”! Allowing people to think something was their idea, is one of the most effective tactics for the efficacious flight of a plan.  When you permit people to share in the creation of an idea, they become personally invested in its success; their desire and personal need to see the idea prosper increases exponentially. As a Leader, if you can help 10 different people believe they each contributed to the development (even a small part) of a great idea; you will have generated an exceptionally motivated and driven Team set on triumphing over their objective.  If you are capable of duplicating this scenario over and over again, your Team will catapult itself to the top of the organization.  At that point there will be enough credit and recognition for all.

One of the common grievances, I mentioned above, is from Managers who mind their bosses taking credit for their ideas.  Exasperation over this occurrence is a fool’s folly.  Even the most reckless instances of abuse, such as a boss putting his name on a paper you have created, are losing battles.  Some so called manager advice columnist tend to prescribe two possible paths of action to console the affronted, the first being confrontation and the second a withdrawal of future ideas.  They are wrong.  Both pieces of advice are guaranteed to stop your career dead in its tracks.  The confrontation will certainly result in your boss acknowledging the idea was yours.  But the credit will be accompanied with the justification that he either verbally passed on your contribution or the explanation that as part of his Team, “it is your job to provide ideas for him” (a stance I wouldn’t disagree with).  Either way, you have built resentment with your boss.  Having been called a thief and a cheat, he will surely move you to the back of the pack.  Withholding ideas fodders the deluded dream that your boss will fall flat on his face without your great ideas.  Although this may feel virtuous to your ego temporarily, in the long run it is a self-destructive unfulfilling choice.  By withholding your ideas, you will disengage yourself, flounder and certainly move yourself to the back of the pack.

Common Complaint - Boss Steals Ideas

As to others who steal your ideas, never let someone’s bad behavior compromise your values.  You should give your company 100% effort and commitment (for your own sake).  The cream usually rises to the top, if not you should leave, knowing you gave it your all, and find another opportunity.  Turning in a less than “Your Personal Best” to satisfy a grievance just devalues you as an individual. Good Leaders can always spot the stars in their organization.  Don’t take the shine off of your own star by sacrificing your Commitment to Personal Quality for anyone.  You have only one person who is going to look back at you in the mirror at the end of the day. How did he do?

Great Leaders know that ideas are communal property.  Mutual creation produces an atmosphere and expectation from each member of the Team to bring their full experience, creativity, and intellect, to every challenge and openly contribute to the exchange of progressive ideas.  All ideas should be given value and freedom, but not significance in their premature state.  The terribly bad ones help us choose the right course to follow through elimination.  And the brilliant ones are only scratches on the whiteboard until someone executes them into a reality.  Leaders must use their best wisdom in sorting out the bad and good ideas as they determining which ones to act upon.  From there, they must focus the Team’s commitment and efforts on the accomplishment of the idea regardless of its origin.

Once an idea is implemented and becomes a reality, it is time to recognize and thank its creators.  Without the original thoughts of the creative and unique idea nothing would have changed.  But at the same time, a respected and effective Leader will also cheer and praise the Team that brought the idea home.

Giving the credit away is not about modesty and humility.  It is the effectual tactic of a Leader who wants to Get Things Done!  Ideas without implementation are frivolous leaps of fantasy.  The more credit a Leader attempts to ingest for ideas, the more he disenfranchises his entire Team.  Gaining participation from the Team in the creation and rewards of a great idea not only procures their commitment, it elevates their passion.  A Street Smart Leader understands the ultimate supremacy of a passionate, driven, and rewarded A-Team will get things done and accelerate his career far more than taking credit for ideas ever could.

I find it persistently perplexing to observe people who wastefully scourge their own futures capitulating to out-of-control emotionally charged reactive positions.  There is no doubt

Good Attitude: a C.O.E.

regarding the power of an emotionally driven passion, and its ability to create a fixated and compelled response.  When passions run positive they heighten goals, purpose efforts, achieve the extraordinary and enrich lives.  But when these emotions are thwarted towards negative passions, the results of anger, guilt, resentment, despair, and fear can have a devastating effect on one’s performance.  Their corrosive capability to dislodge critical thinking and embed negativity, as a locked-in position within one’s psyche, supplants achievement and activates a self-destructive downward spiral which inevitably destroys the success of any mission.  These destructive passions are firmly beached in what someone “feels” is their personal justified response to a perceived “wrong”.  Whether anger, resentment or one of the other passion thugs they all typically manifest themselves beneath the shroud of a Bad Attitude.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.
Albert Einstein

In my early executive career, I gained responsibility for the US Operations of our company-owned dealerships.  Although operational proficiency was an established forte of mine, many of the organizational managers had only discerned the context of my Sales Management responsibilities.  The new Leadership transition was un-momentous with the exception of several hold-outs from the “old guard” Operations Managers who comprised my new team.  I rigorously embarked on numerous field trips to every location to constitute a common vision, firm up strategies, focus tactile plans and build relationships.  As our team solidified around our aggressive goals, results vaulted forward and our program began to take off, with one exception.  My Operations Manager in Pittsburgh just wasn’t coming around.  His organization was healthy enough to yield tolerable numbers, but he was sluggish to adopt new concepts and promote new directions.

I decided the time had come for what my esteemed mentor at the time, Terry McGushin, used to call a “come-to Jesus meeting”.  A “put it on the line” and let the chips fall where they will, type of meeting.  I flew into Pittsburgh with a four-hour window for my return flight.  I conveyed no purpose to review branch activity or performance.  There was no agenda except to have one honest conversation with one individual.

Upon arriving and exchanging pleasantries with our team there, I sat down for a tough one-on-one with our Operations Manager.  With nothing in front of me except the determination on my face, I definitively explained I was unhappy with his unresponsiveness, undermining, and impedance of our mission and direction. As our discussion progressed he expounded his pent-up frustration culminating from events over the last 15 years of his career.  I sat back and conceded the floor as he spoke of injustices, oversights and disagreements which had led to his amassed feeling of disenchantment.  As he decelerated from the weight of his swelling baggage, I moved unwaveringly into his soliloquy.  Granting his insurmountable past perceptions, I leaned forward to encroach upon his space and ensure he was “in the present” with me.

I asked him to listen carefully to what I had to say, and then made it clear that I was unable to rewrite his history, but if he desired a future on our team he must embrace a Positive Attitude.  He retorted how he was feeling better about the current direction of the company (an instantaneous new revelation) and he felt “in time” he could improve how he felt.  At this point, I briskly halted his explication, met eye to eye, and quietly mandated my fervent resolve; “I do not consider Attitude to be a Time-Sensitive issue.  You can change it anytime you want to!  If you wish to continue working here, you have until next Monday to change yours.”  After encouraging his positive and immediate deliberation our exchange ended and I promptly headed to the airport.  Unfortunately, rather than embrace the opportunity for a New Outlook, he sulked and piled our conversation on his heap of grievances and was terminated within 30 days.  I promptly hired an exceedingly bright new Operations Manager with no baggage and an inspiring uplifting can-do Attitude who quickly turned the location into our performance flagship and became a rising star in the organization.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

Thomas Jefferson

Leaders must eradicate Bad Attitudes from their team without sympathy or conciliation.  Bad Attitudes are a contamination which embitter and attempt to exterminate all life around them.  Sometimes it is convenient to forget that Leaders are people too.  They accumulate their setbacks, disappointments, struggles and resentments just like everyone else.  So your first step as a Leader in slaying Bad Attitudes is a self-awareness check.  Leaders must bring Passion to the arena in order to mobilize their team to extraordinary achievement.  But those Passions must be grounded in the positive inspiring experiences of your past and the unconquerable hope of your future.  Acknowledge your baggage and leave it at the door so you are able to arrive for work in the present.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Be serious, be truthful, and be genuine.  If your own Attitude needs an adjustment, do it Right Now!

Destruction of Bad Attitudes

Good attitude is contagious bad attitude is infectious.  We are not talking about someone who is having a bad day or going through a difficult time.  A Bad Attitude is one which is engrained in someone’s daily behavior.  It appears as sarcasm, complaining, apathy, negativity, pessimism, undermining, defiance, insubordination, bad moods, and unscrupulous behavior.  A Bad Attitude affects your entire team and distracts them from their focus.

Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.

Lou Holtz

Additionally, a Bad Attitude perpetuates a decline in the quality of someone’s work.  It sabotages the ability to deliver one’s best effort.  Whether birthed from self-pity or the Blame Game, it becomes impossible for these negative passions to be set aside in the best interests of the company’s pursuits.  A Bad Attitude is costly to positive energy, momentum, achievement, and results in a loss of real dollars and cents.  Once someone abandons their Personal Commitment to Quality with the justification that it is not their fault they become a liability to you as a Leader.

You cannot tolerate a Bad Attitude regardless of your understanding of their position.  Doing so will only enable their behavior.  It is a Condition of Employment (C.O.E.) for someone to enter work with a Positive Attitude.  A-Teams are built on Positive Attitude and as a Leader you must set this expectation in stone.  Remember, it is not your job to fix people.  It is your job to find A-Players and build a successful team with them.

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Charles R. Swindoll

Leaders must be capable of dealing with a full range of human passions and emotions to be effective at gaining maximum performance.  They must deeply care about the concerns and difficulties of their team in order to support them in a thriving atmosphere.  But when emotions turn negative and begin to burrow into someone’s psyche, your team becomes threatened by a Bad Attitude.  A Street Smart Leader doesn’t blink.  He looks Bad Attitude eye to eye and asks it to leave right now … one way or the other.

(This is Part III of a three part series on the Performance Plus Planning System which focuses on the Four P’s – Plan, Platform, Process, People, to create synergistic accountable organizations.)

 

Each of the architectural elements plotted below warrant their own detailed explanations, however, in this article I am attempting to provide only the “framework” to build a prosperous integrated business operation capable of achieving Next Level Accountability.  

THE PROCESS

A Leader must insure his team distinguishes how to operate with competence and consistency in order to harvest a level of “competitive:” quality which outstrips the anticipations of

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clients.  The Team must appreciate “who does what when” and possess the competency to produce impregnable outcomes.  The formation of a rock-solid Plan and investment of a superior Platform is squandered without a proficient, smooth, trustworthy, Process to carry it out.

Process improvement is one of the most conversed necessities for any business attempting to advance performance.  A pure and present Plan and an organizationally supportive Platform momentously intensifies the likelihood that Process improvement will have an evocative and enduring impact.

Reengineering and Continuous Process Improvement programs employed by a fixated Leader require a company-wide effort to scrutinize all tasks and their relevancy in achieving Strategic Goals.  Team based approaches which gather information, seek out solutions and accumulate buy-in should be used as an imperative portion of Process Development.

Since most organizations lack resources to apply a complete re-engineering approach, Leaders must look at set systems and develop Processes generating more resourceful and operative results.

As a part of the planning process, measurements should be developed to determine progress to the plan.  A Leader must also fix metrics that can be effortlessly and habitually monitored for results of the Process Improvement Program.

The Process

Re-engineering

A Leaders commitment to the continuous advancement of Quality is indispensable to long-term Customer Value Proposition.  Involvement and solutions for these advancements should be pursued throughout all expanses of the company.  Process Leaders should acquire proficiency and usage in Kaizen based events to ascertain and implement these improvements.

A Street Smart Leader preserves an “external focus” on improvements which are driven by customer needs to pilot the organization to a leading industry position. The conveyance of a performance based organization must be cultured continuously to insure costs are driven down and the competitive position is enhanced.

Quality improvement programs should be examined to determine if customer satisfaction is the driving force behind any new processes and ideals.  An introverted quality program that focuses only on reducing costs without regard to customer impact will produce a company which profitably goes out of business. The effectual organization is able to conceive methods of accomplishing more with less.

The Re-Engineering

Systems

Deliberations of Systems tend to be framed in terms of information processed on computers and through the Platform Structure.  But often much of the information vital to the realization of an organization’s project or strategic plan is processed through a multiplicity of people and offline systems.  These offline systems can vary to a wide degree depending on the individual in control, possibly creating serious fissures in productivity and quality.

Often these online and offline systems are treated as separate entities resulting in a “disconnect” throughout the entire process.  Leaders must work with their teams to map both process types into one all-inclusive exploration.  Once this is completed all team members involved will now understand the entire picture.

Understanding where online systems and offline systems intertwine with each other is a Leaders first step setting the groundwork for process improvement.  Once understood, he can then begin to construct connections safeguarding check and balances are built-in to the systems to prevent the “ball from dropping” thus creating true widespread organizational productivity.

The Systems

Metrics

The establishment of a resilient Metrics program conveys accountability upon an organization.  Performance gains are based on knowing where one is starting from and where they desire to go.  Comprehensive Measurement is the best methodology to track and communicate headway.  A Leaders challenge is in determining what to measure, how to measure it, and what the results really conclude.

Developing a “root cause” mentality from the onset of Strategic Planning sets the stage for determining what to measure.  Your team will focus attention and effort in the areas the company measures.  Therefore, it is imperative to insure Measurements support goals directly without creating conflict within the organizational factions.

Leaders should concentrate Measurements in the areas of Quality (external measurements), Productivity (internal measurements), and Growth (financial measurements).

The Metrics

THE PEOPLE

A Leader’s greatest Plans, Platforms, and Processes will spiral into a tailspin without an A-Team in place.  And probabilities are, his customers will notice it before he does.  Becoming a performance based organization is reliant on people strength at every position within the organization.

Team members must unmistakably apprehend the big picture strategy and their roles within it to realize triumph.  The quality of their character, drive and skills must consistently meet the highest standards.  And the Leader must generate and sustain a workplace in which team members surpassing these criteria excel to heightened levels of personal and professional culmination.

A-Players are the “competitive advantage” of the future.  The ability of a Leader to attract the “best” and provide them with ongoing inspiration is reliant on a Vision and Plan which is stimulating, a Platform that does not get in the way and a Process which allow the A-Team to deliver superior results of which they can be proud.

People focused Leaders must evaluate the capability, drive and character of their team.  Leaders also need to assess the future probability of success each team member is likely to attain in the organizations “next level’ and determine if they are adept to “step up and grow”.  The cultural elements that positively and negatively affect performance must also be evaluated and acted upon by the Leader.

The People

Roles

The performance based organization desires to recognize the needs of customers more piercingly than customers themselves. They not only strive to comprehend what is imperative today but also what will be compulsory tomorrow, and the day after.  Leaders must work with their teams to see they become ultra-sensitive to the essentials of the customer.  As management, sales, and marketing uncover customer desires a system must be in place to disseminate this information throughout the team so that all team members accept responsibility for satiating these requirements.

Every team member must become personally engaged in customer fulfillment.  Each team and function must apprehend the customer’s needs and be devoted to delivering only the best they have to offer; not only understanding their role but also the role of others who they are responsible for functioning with and supporting.

Leaders must instill in their team that performance based service must be recognized as an imperative consequence everyone partakes in.  It is not just the job of some other department. Politics, the Blame Game, shifting and other disastrous behaviors must be sought out and eradicated.  The “common goal” of delivering Customer Value Proposition must be the focus and stand as the pinnacle for company integration.

The Roles

People Quality

A performance based organization must be strenuously unyielding in communicating the Customer Value Proposition to each team member.  Education and training must be carefully planned to insure all team members are capable of conveying customer value.  This training and education must go beyond job function and include elements that teach team members about the needs and requirements of the customer from their perspective.  Teams should then be given an understanding on the company as a whole and how each area’s goals contribute to the Customer Value Proposition.

There are many ways in which to communicate, train, and educate employees, from formal classes and seminars to on the job activities.  The strongest bond in developing team involvement is to have a strongly oriented performance based culture that creates a tidal wave of positive attitude towards the company’s Mission and wins.  A Leader must lay the foundation for this cultural strength.

World Class Organizations demand the best from each team member.  For this phenomenon to perpetually renew Leaders must be committed to the personal and professional development of each team member.  A learning environment must be created in which team members feel free to grow their careers without risk.  At the same time it must be understood that performance problems will not be tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly and professionally.

People Quality

Morale

The most effective plan will not flourish without stout Team Morale.  Perhaps nothing is more telling of the climate of the company’s culture than to perform an employee audit.  Leaders should look for outside assistance to perform a credible audit as a part of the internal analysis.  Leadership should address problems creating low morale before long-term performance improvements are affected.  In areas where Leadership cannot enact changes due to external forces (such as challenging economic times), strong internal communications and support should be provided to fortify the understanding and acceptance of the team.  No organization can move towards “being the best” without a exceedingly motivated work force.

The culture should be one that strives to deliver the Customer Value Proposition.  It should strive for internal effectiveness and constantly search for areas of improvement.  Since quality of work becomes a reflection of the quality of working conditions, a Leadership must commit himself to providing top working conditions for his A-Team.  Everywhere quality becomes the top priority for delivering value.  Team members should have a fundamental understanding of the importance of the customer and the direct correlation of the customer’s fulfillment on their personal career and future prosperity.

The Morale

Developing proficient Processes and building a fantastic A-Team of People allows a Leader to catapult off of the prodigious Plan and Platform they have developed and achieve previously undiscovered summits as a Performance Organization.  Leaders capable of building an organizational architecture on the principles of the 4Ps will establish an enduring, prosperous, and mounting organizational model.  The Performance Plus process is a comprehensive hands-on approach into your organization’s depths to gather information, solve problems, create new ideas, and discover breakthrough possibilities while directly leading your people “into the fold”.  A Street Smart Leader knows the Performance Plus Process is about realizing results.  In striving to create Next Level Accountability, he moves past the conference room “feel-good” banter and materializes real Deliverables to propel his Performance’s progress and Teams success.

4P Deliverables

THE PERFORMANCE PLUS SYSTEM

NEXT LEVEL ACCOUNTABILITY

The Performance Plus System

Time and again we are bewildered by strong and capable managers beleaguered in their attempts to achieve organization results.  These managers may have painstakingly built

The Blame Game

an A-Team of rock-solid performers and advanced dazzling plans with effective implementation, yet the fruits of their labor continue to evade a prosperous outcome.  When “good people do the right things” without achievement, vexation sets in and the “Blame Game” activates.  A Leader’s proficiency, causes, communication, and energies all come into question as frustration builds and the organization lingers in a downward spiral towards disaster.  When the A-Team is efficiently stalking the right plan without results, rather than find fault, a Leader should look towards the Structure of the Organization.

Structural problems can be some of the most testing to solve.  An organization’s structure is often deep set in years of subterranean unquestioned paradigms.  Structural tribulations can become such a monolithic impediment that even in the face of its delinquency most Leaders cannot start to fathom the idea of changing it.  An overhaul of the Organizational Structure is a colossal undertaking not for the faint of heart.  But as long as it remains scathed and broken all other attempts to improve performance are only temporary Band-Aids doomed for long term failure.

Structural problems usually raise their ugly heads in the form of Organizational Dysfunction.  Prevalent organizational dysfunctions, such as caustic internal competition, bottle-necked workflows, and fractionalized self-interests become mainstream currents throughout the organization.  Managers build their power base by successfully fighting for the benefits and domination of their own groups, willingly forsaking the well-being of the entire organization.  If this is the case with one manager, a bad apple exists.  But if virtually every manager within an organization seems to be at “locked horns” with each other, the Organization Structure requires a stark assessment.  A Street Smart Leader knows you cannot run the right plays from the wrong formation.

Un-Accountability - The Blame Game

The most widespread creator of organizational dysfunction remains the antiquated “departmental” structure.  I immediately become suspicious of a company structure when I hear employees using the expression “department” over and over again throughout the daily discourse.  Sales department, operations department, order entry department, service department, accounting department, marketing department, and all the rest of them are the code words for a stifled and frustrated organization.  Departments imply groups of people which are separated by function from each other for their particular purpose.  This separation generates a sightlessness which prevents each department from realizing the comprehensive advanced organizational functionalities which are essential such as growth, customer retention, and profitability.  Departments establish a configuration where those within the department strive for the department’s achievement as the paramount objective.  “I’m okay as long as my department is doing its job”, is the mantra.  Communication, vital information, and knowledge are repressed from other groups to be used as competitive weapons in the games of political capital and personal power.  Although we have been aware of the unhealthy consequences of departmental structures for decades, they continue to persist in organizations everywhere.

The principal problem with departments is what has been called the “Silo Effect”.  This term comes from the imagery of looking at a row of grain silos stacked next to one another.  Information, cooperation, and workflow must rise up through the top of one silo over to the top of the next one and then down inside of it.  In simple terms, a group of employees requiring the assistance of another department must first go to their Department Manager who then negotiates with his counterpart Manager before engagement becomes operational.  The Silo Effect creates a myopic environment in which employees only concentrate and comprehend the tasks within their immediate jurisdiction.  Their inability to see the whole picture causes them to believe that their isolated tasks exist in a vacuum unrelated to a larger, more vital goal.  Typically those working in departments are encouraged to focus on the objectives of the department’s success.

The Silo Effect - Departmental Structure

Since a Department Manager is responsible for constructing a successful department, they become very protective of their group permeating the conception that the other departments are the enemy.  Enhanced gamesmanship and political choreography stimulates a Department Manager to maneuver his group to gain a stronger “image” than the other departments.  These mounting Fiefdoms subvert the goal of real performance and diminish the reality of the “external” competitor.  Since the Department Manager is in control of every activity which enters and leaves the department a culture of unaccountability prospers within the department’s employees.  They begin to rely on their manager to tell them what to do and when to do it.

The problem inflates when Upper Management places department-based incentives in front of the Department Manager as a reward system.  Now the Department Manager is financially rewarded for making sure their group comes out on top regardless of the overall organizational effectiveness and success.  This scenario routinely causes such a high degree of political infighting that Upper Management ceases to focus on vision and strategy and relegates itself to the role of managerial referee.

Department structures are hierarchical and their basic structure.  Work flows in a vertical up-and-down methodology which is controlled by the Department Managers.  Ask to see most company’s Org Chart and you see the basic philosophy of this hierarchical structure which has been so embedded in our minds.  Leaders they must recognize that this archaic organism destroys the progressive mind share which is necessary for success in today’s highly competitive and advanced environments.  Leaders who are serious about creating a cohesive structure where A-Team Players can thrive must realize the negativity spawned from the departmental philosophy and strikeout to eliminate the very idea of “department” from every aspect in the business.  “Department” is a dirty word.  Do not even allow the use of it within your organization.

As a Leader you must tear down the divisive walls which block the cross functionality of your organization.  Good Leaders build structures which allow cooperation and information to flow without the need for management intervention.  Strong structures focus on the “delivery systems” of your goods and services to your customers while providing the company with a profitable outcome.  They generate a cohesive platform where different functions must come together to create a unified solution which results in an incomparable success.  Leaders are not the gatekeepers of work product rather they are the facilitators of workflow.  Today’s Leaders can find innovative success in denouncing the power coveted department roles of the past and embracing a larger, more momentous responsibility of establishing results across the limitations of traditional functional boundaries.

Cross functional work teams have been used over the last several decades to create a holistic approach to attain project success.  Members from different functional disciplines have been pulled from their daily responsibilities to participate on teams with multiple skill sets to improve a particular area of performance.  Originating within the Japanese models of Continuous Process Improvement, these methodologies have continued to evolve in today’s Six Sigma programs.  In many of these programs the managers send a member of their department to the process improvement meeting to be led by a Facilitator while they sit back continuing to manage from their power base.

Most Leaders compartmentalize this improvement process and fail to explore the opportunities it presents as a permanent Organizational Structure.  Cross Functional Structures take the traditional hierarchical model and transform its vertical silos into horizontal systems of self-managed workflow.  It removes managers from their role as the “Ruler” and challenges them with the responsibility of “Facilitator”.

A Cross Functional Organizational Structure begins with the focus of customer needs.  Various disciplines which support the needs of the customer are then teamed together as Strategic Business Units.  Each member of the business unit is accountable to work together with the other members of the team to plan, shape, and complete the team’s work for their customers.  The blame game terminates as each member of the cross functional team equally shares the responsibility for the accomplishment of goals.  As a Leader you have replaced the infighting of departments with a customer centric business unit which must work together if it is to be successful.  The Teams become protective of their customers and their results.

Accountable Organization - Cross Functional Structure

The ability to employ a Cross Functional Structure throughout your organization will also greatly flatten your management ranks.  Understanding customer’s needs, setting goals, and then expecting teams to deliver on those goals builds an Accountable Organization which is non-reliant on parental style management structures.  And as an added benefit you will find Cross Functional Structures are scalable.  In good times and bad you only need to add and subtract teams.  Teams also become “used to” each other creating “soft” efficiencies and “automated” communication which increase productivity.  Finally, C-Players, who often find hiding places within departments, are quickly exposed through peer pressure once they are on a team.  This places an upward pressure for managers either to get people “up to speed’ or replace them.  Believe it or not, your business units actually make firing decisions for you.  Cross Functional Structures produce lower structural costs, higher accountability, and stronger players.  A win – win – win!

As Facilitators, your manager’s focus shifts from empire building to team building.  Their focus is on improvement and progress.  They are able to manage daily work on an “exception” basis, getting involved when a Team asks for help.  And they are able to spend valuable time supporting and growing the A-Players within their discipline.  Cross Functional Structures allow managers to become Leaders.

It may seem a daunting task to consider the revamping of the Organizational Structure you have lived with for years.  But as a Leader in today’s economy you are challenged with creating a Customer Value Proposition which lowers cost while improving deliverables and quality.  It is a waste of time and a neglect of a Leader’s responsibilities to be the referee of the Blame Game.  If you believe you have built an A-Team of people and results are lacking while frustration and politics are increasing, it is time to examine your structure.  An effective Leader will understand the needs of his customers and the goals which must be accomplished for his company’s prosperity.  A Street Smart Leader will shape the organizational structure around these needs and goals to form an Accountable Organization.  He knows that A-Team players are success driven and have no need of protection, politics, or babysitting … they just need someone to help knock down the walls so they can do their job.

An enormous amount of concentration has been spotlighted on the ethics, values, and beliefs of today’s Leaders.  The world is clamoring for Leaders to set the standard of what is

Lack of Individual Character

virtuous and authentic.  Companies have been forced into developing obligatory governance and ethics policies in an attempt to verify their collective contrived morality.  These guiding principles are designed to control the actions and profit motives of the organization.  Unfortunately, this righteous battering of our institutions has only served to dissuade the accountability of personal actions from individuals to the un-accountability of monolithic non-human entities.  The masses easily point to the corruption of the Corporation, the Government, or the Society as the “root of all evil” and painlessly exculpate themselves from the personal responsibility of accountability.  A societal top-down expectation of morality has developed allowing individuals to “sit back and wait” for ethics and values to come to them.

Much has been espoused regarding the significance of Character as a requisite for a Good Leader.  Yes, if you do not comport and demonstrate a Strength of Character, you will never truly Build and Lead an A-Team.  And with People as the key differentiator in today’s competitive business universe, you must compile an A-Team of Players for you and your business to succeed and prosper. But Character at the Top of an organization does not propagate Values throughout the ranks.  Character is not transferable.  The distinctive Character of an Individual is the building block to the Values of any organization or institution.

In today’s politically charged culture we are admonished for judging others.  We are to be understanding of the failures of virtue of those around us and give deference to the possibility of circumstances they may have encountered.  But if you aspire to excel as the Leader of an A-Team, you must embrace the obligation of judging the Character of others.  As I have said before, it is not your job to fix people.  A Street Smart Leader is not a builder of character; he is a Collector of Character!

A man’s character is his fate
Heraclitus

Character represents those attributes we expect our employees to stride through the door with. They include integrity, work ethic, quality, caring, accountability responsibility, cooperation, etc.  Character goes beyond just knowing what is right and perseveres in “doing what is right”.  Character is a habit which defies adversity and prevails with fortitude.  Leaders can count on people of Character to make the right decisions in the tough “moments of truth” even if it does not personally benefit them at the time.  People with Character allow you to focus on productive solutions instead of emotional motives.

The accomplishment of a great many things is possible with Intelligence, Skills, and Attitude alone.  So why is Character so vital?  First, Character assures that you and your team will embark on endeavors that are the “right things”.  Secondly, it is the presence of Character that makes sure those “right things” are actually successfully implemented through accountability and work ethic.  Character transcends one’s best intentions and is finally defined by one’s actions.   It is the fundamental difference in why we do, what we do.

Character is an A-Team Requirement

A Leader’s time can be “sucked dry” with people-issues emanating from Character related non-performance and drama.  Employees who simply fail to do what they are “supposed to do” create a ripple effect around them which proliferates and disrupts the entire team.  Eventually these diverters of productivity necessitate management’s time.  A Leader can teach someone a new skill and act to rectify an attitude lapse, but once a violation of Character takes place, trust is permanently lost.  Without trust, a Leader has no choice but to micro-manage an employee in an atmosphere of growing resentment and frustration.  His focus moves from enhancing performance to “fixing up” situations fraught with emotions.  Take notice of the amount of failures that are Character related.  Start accounting for the squandered time you spend on these worthless and wasted lost causes.

The force of character is cumulative.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is tempting for Leaders to become trapped into trading off Character for short term performance achievement.  Extraordinary performance is possible by extremely talented employees who lack Character and are focused on selfishly motivated objectives, but their cost is extremely high.  These crippling trade-offs can extend for years with a remarkably gifted employee.

We have all witnessed them.  The classic “ends justifies the means” people.  Those who disrupt, unravel, and generally blow up the work environment around them.  They take no prisoners and pursue personal agendas at the risk of accomplishing overall company goals.  They are people users, often burning out their team over and over again.  They are stress machines who develop turmoil and generate confrontation at every turn.  Others feign from the prospect of working with them.  Eventually teamwork is eliminated as the Cycle of Fear increases.  If we were talking about non-performers or average performers, the answer to this dilemma would be a simple termination, but sometimes these passion-killers are the highest performers of your organization.  They possess special, unique, and not easily replaceable skills and performance which create a make-or-break situation in your company’s success.

High Performers Without Character

What they lack is Character.  Regardless of the coaching, micro-managing, and manipulating you are willing to put into modifying their behavior, they will eventually “burn” you as a result of their lacking Character.  Success masquerades their flaws, but again and again they will make the wrong ethical choices presenting you with substantial liabilities internally and externally.  Ultimately you will be faced with losing them, losing your Team, or losing Yourself.  Decide early not to empower these individuals.  Be smart, be skillful, keep a great attitude and then present the Force of your Character at every challenge.

“Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
Edmund Burke

Your first priority is to make Character based hiring decisions by asking and listening to specific examples of “how” someone has dealt with the adversities in their career and in their life.    Next you must be courageous, make Character judgments about the people on your team, and diligently “weed out” those who are deficient.   As a Leader you are expected by your team and your company to exemplify a strong and moral Character.  But do not be fooled into believing this will create Character throughout your organization.  Setting the standard, cannot improve upon another’s Character.  Character is an individual accountability.  A Street Smart Leader knows the value of Character and requires it as a “condition of employment”.  He relinquishes the false ego gratification as a potential Builder of Men and focuses on the genuine results to be gained as a Builder of Character Based Teams.

As a youthful gent of nine or ten years old,  I would bounce from slumber at the break of an unused fresh Saturday outfitted in my printed PJs and swing through the kitchen preparing a “Capitan Crunch” feast before bearing straightaway towards my morning’s mission.  Capitalizing on my brother’s never-ending zzzs and Mom’s weekly programmed chore ritual, I would swiftly lay claim and appropriate that enchanted place my family had christened the “TV Room”.  My throne embodied a post on the hard floor, cross legged, as close as I could risk without the perpetual admonition of “you’re ruining your eyes”.  Finally!  After tortuous weeknights of my parent’s “Million Dollar Movie” boredom, I possessed power and mastery over the magnanimous magical machine.  I would conduct my colorless, make believe travels enthralled in the lands of heroes and villains.  With their nail-biting gunfights, glorious horses, chair -breaking barroom fights and murderous bank robberies, Westerns became the beloved genre for my inaugural immersion into the human condition.  And if you wanted to make me jump, splash some of Captain’s milk, and smash the daybreak’s tranquility with hyperventilating yelps, just start a Stampede.

Out on the prairie, right when all seemed tranquil and noiseless, rustlers up to no-good would infiltrate the herd and scatter the cattle into a panic.  In a split second, before you grappled it, the entire herd of cattle was racing over the plains; quaking the very ground I sat on.  As the unruly panting mob swung closer to me, kicking up dust and throwing rocks, I could see their blinding determination to run-over everything in their way.  As the camera drew back from the crushing hoofs and snorting horns I could see the thundering mass headed for the edge of a cliff where they were certain to meet a bloody mangled ending.  Then with a shift in music, the Cowboys would kick into action.  And in a flash, the movie’s star would appear from nowhere.  Thrusting his lurching horse forward with his white hat flapping in the air, the Cowboy would begin gaining speed alongside the runaway herd.  With his neck straining forward, he would endeavor to sight the lead renegade bull, and plunge toward that key position right on the herd’s shoulder.  And as he overtook the reckless followers and met the behemoth eyeball to eyeball, the Cowboy would courageously lean into the rush slowly moving it sideways.  Then, with cereal now falling from my mouth, the climactic moment would arrive when the Cowboy discovered himself in front of the herd and on the brink of the cliff ready to plummet to his own peril.  But as his steed tumbled rocks into the deep canyon below, the Cowboy would make one last blood and guts challenge and round the herd towards safety.

In business, a Leader is often faced with having to thwart an out of control stampede headed for danger.  This business pandemonium usually manifests itself as a runaway idea or reckless emotion which can become uncontrollable once set into motion.  As these wild upsurges pick up more and more muck, they elevate a sense of urgency driving energy to a single-minded purpose.   A dangerous purpose that is willing to run over anything that gets between it and the edge of the cliff.  As a Leader you need to be able to turn a bad idea without forsaking your own safety.

Anger and surprise can be strong initiators of rash calls to action.  When confronted with the realization of a major blunder, many managers will look for blood.  They fly into a rage almost with nostrils flaring, and demand to know who made this mistake.  They want someone to go out there, find out what transpired and come back with someone’s head on a platter.  “And if it was so-and-so they better be written-up or they better be fired!”  Most times the situation is more complex than just one individual.  Although it might bring momentary gratification to sacrifice an easy mark, such an oversimplified solution rarely resolves your real dilemmas.  But these are not rational moments.

Sometimes the stampede emanates from a group of people with a runaway idea.  A ringleader decides to go after some person, some program or some concept because they have decided it no longer works.  They quickly enrage the group and generate movement.  As a group, they are forceful.  They can run full speed and they can run people over in their quest to see that nothing gets in their way.  They can easily lose perspective and become unconcerned with collateral damage in pursuit of their personal agenda.

Or perhaps you have seen the stampede that begins of nothing more than pure enthusiasm of a new idea where everyone becomes immediately excited about the possibility of its potential.  All of a sudden, everyone wants to start running and making it happen without thoughts, without plans, and without any attention to the consequences or pitfalls the plan may have.  They are running wild, kicking up dirt and headed for failure.

As a Leader you need to be able to recognize an out-of-control stampede and develop the skills to turn it around before it drives itself and you to the bottom of nowhere.

Begin by staying alert and understanding that stampedes are concocting all around you.  In order to retain your own survival and not be run over, you need to be ready and able to move fast.  Once you perceive the initial rumblings, crank your brain into overdrive, get those synapses popping, and your adrenaline pumping.  If you do not possess the energy, the speed and the stamina to run with the herd they will run away and you will be watching the catastrophe from the back.

Now remember, if the herd breaks they will have the jump on you; so you have to react quickly.  You need to swiftly run alongside of them and gain speed as you out-think them.  Their emotion will slow them down; keep your thoughts moving.  Stay calm and look for your “shoulder” position.  As you reach the eyeball to eyeball position get ready to make your move. Right here is where most managers make a crucial gaffe.  They run in front of the herd and standing with their heels on the edge of the cliff, commence waving their hands in the air trying to convince a bad idea to stop in its tracks.  As you can imagine, these managers end up on the bottom of some devastating results.

Verbalizing your convictions and pontificating your objections will only put you on the edge of the cliff to be run over.  The secret to negotiating the “shoulder position” of an argument is to ask the right questions.  It is the right questions that will turn the debate.  You only need to “lean in” enough to get the emotion to flinch.  From here, you can begin to control and turn the conversation away from those runaway ideas.

So next time your boss wants the head of an important member of your team or you are faced with a run away group, you won’t answer that you “don’t think they are right” or you “don’t think that it is fair”.  Instead, you’ll start by running alongside of them while discussing and agreeing with the problem.  You will ensure they understand that you understand the gravity of the situation and their cry for action.  Share and engage their emotion while always staying on an intellectual plane, all the while gaining ground and preparing to take another direction.  At the right moment you will begin turning the discussion.  Start asking questions!  Go beyond the immediate rush and explore the after-effects.  Open up the perspective of the entire judgment.   “Well if we fire Joe, who’s there to take over and properly manage the program he’s running?”  Or, “That is a great idea.  With our other commitments, how can we find the time to implement it properly?”  Getting a bad idea to stop and think for only a moment about the consequences of stampeding is enough to begin the turn.

As you turn the stampede you will sense the energy drain out of them.  They will suffer with a letdown as they realize the goal they were charging so hard for has been diverted.  A good leader will bring his run-away herd back into the fold gently.  You need to take the fragments that were right and good and direct them back to safety where they can live for another day.  Your boss wanted accountability – this is a good thing.  And your group wanted to improve a situation – this is a good thing.  It is your responsibility to preempt a repeating panic by improving the root causes with a controlled plan that will succeed.

Stampedes are exhilarating and exciting.  They are filled with moments of passion and deep convictions.  But if you watch the movie in slow motion and look into the eyes of the cattle you will see their conviction and passion are really misled fear and anger.  Your job is to be constantly on look out for the possibility of your A-Team stampeding.  If they start running, you need to kick it into high gear, run alongside of them, and gain the “shoulder position” with intelligent provoking questions.  Demonstrating your ability to stay calm in the face of an impending disaster will build your team’s confidence in you and encourage them to run full speed in the right direction next time.  They will trust that if they put their passion, energy and drive into the sprint of a project, you will lead them to higher ground.  Ride tall, keep your eyes open and remember, sometimes you have to “Cowboy Up” if you want to be a Street Smart Leader.

I have witnessed some of the best and brightest MBAs crash and burn, like Icarus with his wings of wax,never to again ascend.  They are extraordinarily smart individuals.  They are amazingly articulate.  And damn if they do not know the answers to all matters. These confident and glassy contenders are able to decipher complex business conundrums and possess the facility to deliver sophisticated presentations to corroborate their campaign.  These managers are extremely proficient, cogent, brainy businesspeople. But repeatedly they take off towards the brightness of their ideas only to tumble back to failure.  What is it about their “book smarts” that thwarts their flight from soaring with their strategies?   Street Smart Leaders embrace an imperative truism, the sine qua non: Business is easy – People are hard.

All of the acumen in the world falls short if one does not understand the enigmatic component created once “people” are introduced into the equation.  There are a few exceptional careers where an individual’s solitary efforts are developed in a bubble to produce results.  But in the overwhelming majority of situations, people are necessary if we are to materialize concepts into actions.

So often, I see competent managers charged with a task fail to coalesce their team of people.  They self-sabotage their own brilliance and watch their plan plummet from the sky.  They focus on the plan, disregarding the importance of connecting their strategy to their people.  This snubbing of the human component creates an undercurrent of defiance leading to an imperceptible revolution.  The insurgency occurs because the manager has included “people” as one of the “things” in his plan.  For a Leader to implement a strategy or idea, the Leader must grasp he is asking “people to change”.  His plan’s success is reliant on his ability to mobilize human beings into action and construct change.

People are vital to accomplishing your goals.  They are diverse and complicated.  To be an effective Leader you must focus a significant part of your studies on the behavioral sciences.  What are the motivations of people?  The application of behavioral concepts to real world situations crafts a “business psychology” of people at the “street level”.  The more proficient you are at understanding the personal motivation of each member of your team, the better change agent you will become.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs

As a Leader it is your obligation to make change happen.  You are dealing with change issues involving broken and ineffective practices or you are moving your team in a new direction towards a competitive advantage.  Developing the strategies and plans for your program are characteristically a straight forward process.  You can ordinarily figure out what you need to do in business.  Getting people to embrace and carry out your plans is where the Leadership Challenge lies.  So let’s start with a fundamental of business psychology that you need to understand if you are going be successful with moving people to Change.

Fundamental Number One:  People love their misery.  Yes I’ll say that again, people love their misery.  I’m amazed at how often I see people in miserable conditions.  Nothing is going their way, they are frustrated to the extreme and at the brink of emotional (sometimes physical and deadly) breakdowns and yet when you approach them and start to discuss the idea of a change taking place, they seize their misery and clutch it tight to their guts refusing to release it.  What could be so petrifying about change?  They are unconsciously terrified to move from something they know so well, to something having an ambiguous result.  For most human beings this is a very scary proposition.  For them to let go of their misery they must trust that you, as their Leader, have a better place to go.  Many of them have been disappointed throughout their entire careers and they will only let go of the misery when they have no other choice.  A good leader knows how to inspire trust in the plan and emancipate the misery.

As time passes, with some attention to the subject of business psychology, you will get an overall general feel of what you need do as a manager to move people one way or the other.  But if you truly want to excel with the “people” factor of business, it is necessary to get involved with the people.  This means getting down to an individual level with the people on your team and taking the time to think about who they are and what makes them tick.  What makes them happy or excited and when are they skeptical and resistant?   You do not need to have a psychology degree to understand the elementary drivers of an individual’s inspiration.  It is a matter of dedicating generous time and paying close attention to your team.  It entails more than the time in your office with them sitting across the desk.  It necessitates time in their environments where you can listen and hear what is imperative to them. 

Remember it is your people who are going to assassinate your plan, often for reasons they do not even comprehend.  It’s your obligation as a leader to be proactive and stay ahead of them.  Understand what the motivations of each member of the team are.  There are those that have seen it all before.  They feel they have heard of all the changes you describe and invested themselves only to find disappointment.  They would rather hold onto their misery than put themselves out there gain and suffer another disappointment.  Or there are those who hold their misery because they are content with the routine; a daily routine which has become manageable and “easy” for them to navigate.  And there are those who will just refuse to accept someone may have better ideas.  There are thousand, maybe a million, different situations like this, each connecting someone’s resistance to the idea of change.  Regardless of the reasons for their confrontation to change, they are really suffering … miserably suffering. 

To become a strong leader you need to be strong on the people level.  Regardless of your talents, IQ, education, or your planning ability, if you are not able to move people forward, you will fail.

Leading people from misery to change involves three steps.  First, you need to build trust with people.  This comes from having a personal relationship with them.  Someone has to feel they know you and that you understand them before they are going to trust you. Once you have this basic trust established, you are then able to use it to leverage a Change Proposition. The change proposition is quite simple to extend.  The essential element is to remove the risk from the situation.  Your team must understand that the success of the project is their success.  They will have dedicated themselves to an outcome they can be proud of.  But more importantly, they must trust that if they give their comprehensive effort and the projects fails, the accountability will rest squarely on you, their Tough Leader.   It will be your failure.  Think about how many mangers you have seen set up the change proposition 180 degrees from this.  They quickly take the credit for success and blame the team for failure.   This is an anticipated misery far greater than the one they are clutching onto.  The change proposition is victorious when you generate a situation where people have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Next, build a roadmap of your vision to inspire your team.  It is important for them to see your vision of the end result and how much better they will be, but they are not leaving their misery to jump off of a cliff with you.  You must illustrate a piece by piece methodology where they can see realism and success in incremental steps.  Only then will they begin to ease the grip on their misery and grasp change.  By moving them through your change process one successful step at a time, you will find that they begin to take each new step faster and faster.  Eventually you can lead a team to running if they trust you and see the firm ground ahead.

Finally, celebrate the successes with your team.  Too many managers fail to become great leaders simply because they do not know how to distinguish their team’s achievements.  Changing is difficult.  Even success can leave a team exasperated and drained.  Without acknowledgment, your goal has been accomplished but the prominent opportunity has been squandered.  Each successful change should propel the next one.  It is important to replenish, re-invigorate, and re-inspire your team for the next challenge.  Celebration doesn’t mean you should throw a party for every small accomplishment.  But it does mean that every small accomplishment should be recognized allowing each person to absorb a moment of pride.

The change proposition is a circular event.  Trust strengthens (both ways) with each success and builds for the next project.  The next roadmap becomes clearer and your team becomes more willing to move forward on faith.  And everyone learns that change is not daunting as they celebrate progress.  With each cycle your team picks up speed, momentum, and efficiency and your pursuits become easier.

People really aren’t so hard, if you begin with the realization that it really is all about people.  Everyone has plans and everyone has ideas.  Everyone has great products and services.  But in reality, nothing changes until people change.  You need to mobilize your team in order to deliver change.  You need to gain their trust, show them the plan, and create a perpetual cycle of success for your team and for yourself.  There are many other business psychology issues you’ll have to learn to become a great Street Smart Leader.  But if you can disentangle the bonds of misery among your team, you will witness a remarkable proliferation in your A-Team’s accomplishments.  Business is easy – People are hard… Until you realize it is the people who take flight that change the world.