What are you out to prove?

Being a leader means adopting a certain point of view about people, circumstances, opportunities and challenges. It means being oriented around perspectives and conversations that promote and generate new possibilities and effective action, rather than cynicism, resignation and excuses. It means always being the champion for “what’s possible” and “how can we make it work” rather than “why we can’t…” and “why it won’t work…”.

Every point of view is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Have you ever noticed that when you have a point of view that something isn’t possible you always gather evidence and proof of your circumstances and environment to support and prove that point of view? And, if you change our mind, even 180 degrees, and adopt a different point of view, you will immediately find new evidence and proof in the exact same environment and circumstances for your new point of view?

If you have a strong point of view that one of your team members is lazy and uncommitted I am sure you would have a lot of data points to prove it; things like: he keeps coming to work late and leaving early, he seems distracted most of the time and his output is not very good compared to his peers. However, if you learn that this person is going through a major personal tragedy in his life – he lost his significant other to cancer and another family member is unwell – that new information may completely change your mind. Suddenly, you have a new sense of empathy and compassion for your team member. In fact, you now reflect on recent events in a completely new light. Perhaps he isn’t lazy at all, he is just temporarily immobilized. Anyone in his shoes would behave the same…

With every thought, comment and conversation we are constantly promoting and proving one point of view or another. Sometimes we do it consciously, but most of the time we are not aware of doing it at all.

If you have a negative or cynical point of view about an area that is important to you, you may have the point of view, something like: “I won’t get what I want…“, “Things don’t work out smoothly and amazingly in life, at least not for me…” and “Some people are lucky, just not me…“. Perhaps without realizing it, you would constantly be promoting and out to prove that point of view. It will be reflected in your thoughts, comments and conversations.

Every time things don’t work out you may say or imply things like “you see, I knew it.” or “you see I told you so.” And, if someone criticizes you, you may come back with “I am not negative, I am just being realistic!”. This is a common rationalization and justification for cynical people. And, every time something great does happen, you may view it as a “one-off” or something to be “cautiously optimistic” about.

However, you can stand for a drastically different point of view, such as: “Life works and I can and will have what I want in my life, with no compromises…”. In this mindset, your life will be oriented around proving that point of view. Every time something great happens to you, it will serve as evidence – “you see, life works for me…”. Every time something doesn’t work and you don’t get what you want you will view it as a “glitch” or a “one-off.” You will try to learn something worthwhile from the mishap to validate and strengthen your point of view.

We often say “I can’t believe what I see“. But, in fact, we don’t believe or disbelieve what we see. We see what we believe or disbelieve. We don’t really see with our eyes, we see with our point of view. That’s why two people can participate in the same “physical” circumstance or situation and experience it drastically differently, often contradicting.

One of my clients (the CEO of a small but ambitious Marketing company) took on a significant change initiative to elevate his company’s brand, client base and market share from sixth to third in his marketplace. After a lot of hard work, his team lost a mega bid after making it to the final shortlist of two companies out of eight. While many of his team members were upset and discouraged by the loss, the CEO felt extremely proud and encouraged by the fact that for the first time his team made it that far in such a lucrative opportunity. For him, the fact that his team made it to the top two, even though they lost at the end, only signified proof that they were in fact on track to achieve their goal.

If you accept the premise that you are constantly out to proving your points of view, and therefore your points of view are always self-fulfilling prophecies, you have a choice about what point of view you will promote in your comments and conversations.

Contrary to what many people may think there are no “right”, “true” or “correct” points of view. There are only “empowering” or “disempowering” ones; points of view that enable more possibilities, ideas and dreams, and ones that shut down possibilities, ideas and dreams, and explain and justify why these can’t and won’t come true.

I recommend building a life that reflects the point of view: “I am going to have it all“.

I can tell you from experience that being out to prove that things work is much more exciting than proving that they don’t.

What point of view are YOU out to prove in your life?  

Are your commitments strong enough to justify your time?

Do you have a commitment to any of these things: To be healthy and fit? To advance at work? To have a nurturing relationship and/or family?

Are you spending enough time doing the things you want and need to do in these areas in order to be as successful and happy as you would want?

If not, are you one of those people who say: “I know, I have to find the time to exercise…” or “I have to make the time to spend with my family…”???

Too often I hear people give the excuse of “I don’t have the time…”, “I can’t find the time…” or “I need to make the time…” when they don’t live up to their prime commitments.

I understand how busy people feel. I talk to so many busy people who want to do things in other areas of their life and they feel that “they don’t have the time for that commitment.”

Perhaps people who don’t have enough time for their commitment, don’t have a commitment at all!

Perhaps you need to look at the commitment and time equation the other way around:


It is not that you don’t have enough time for your commitment, but you don’t have enough commitment for your time.

Time is an interesting phenomenon. Every hour of the day is equal in length as the next hour. However, our experience of an hour could be quite different depending on the circumstances and what we are up to. Not for naught, people say: “Time flies when you are having fun” or “Time moves at a snail’s pace when you are not enjoying what you are doing”.

I live in Canada, and every year around January my wife turns to me and says with a sigh, “This winter is so long. Seems like it is taking forever.” In fact, we are in that phase right now… And, around mid-to-end of July, she says in a panic: “I can’t believe how fast the summer has passed by. I wish I could slow down time!”

I have noticed that on the day before the weekend or a vacation when I feel like “I must get everything done in order to have the peace of mind during my time off”, I seem to be much more productive and I have much more time to spare too.

If you Google “People are most productive when they are happy in their lives” you’ll find a host of articles and surveys that provide more insight into this topic.

Perhaps if you really want to be healthy and fit or have a very intimate relationship at home you should think about how serious you are about your commitment. Be honest about it. Is it something you “must” achieve, or merely a “nice to have”? If it is a ‘nice to have’ you most likely won’t have enough time for it. However, if you honestly declare that being healthy or intimate are critical to you in order to live up to your most precious values, make the commitment and then live by it.

Pick a few commitments that are “must haves” and create the time for them in your calendar. Schedule the activities associated with fulfilling your top priority commitment in your calendar – for example: exercising 3 times a week, date night with your spouse, quality time with kids, etc.

Then, keep your schedule, “religiously” no matter what. Don’t cancel your exercise or time with your kids because of workload.

Say no to others who want to double-book things with you when you have personal activities planned. Be kind, firm and responsible about it and offer alternative times.

I am not saying that it is easy to manage multiple commitments in a busy life with high integrity. However, I can promise you that if this is important to you and you take it on after you get through the initial phase of – doubting, feeling like you are dropping the ball and perhaps anxiety associated with all that – your activities would start adjusting themselves to your new routine. Most importantly, you will start seeing and experiencing the benefits of fulfilling your commitments and that will give you a tremendous amount of added sense of happiness, confidence and self-fulfillment.

Remember, people always find and make time for things that are really important to them.

Why is it so hard to integrate newly acquired organizations?

I read a staggering statistic which stated that upwards of 80 percent of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) fail to fulfill the strategic goals that justified the merger and/or acquisition within the expected timeframe. What is even more shocking is that in many cases, the resulting organizations are less effective and less successful than the original two by themselves.

My personal experience and observation have led me to believe that this repeated failure is almost always due to the fact that most teams and organizations focus almost exclusively on the content and process but they don’t invest enough time and effort on the cultural, personal and human aspects of their integration. This almost always leads to a reality in which the acquiring executives end up with a well-articulated plan that doesn’t work because it is disconnected from the actual reality.

Even though I hear more and more executives acknowledge that the biggest challenge in integrating an organization they have acquired is “People” and “Culture”. That declaration is rarely reflected in their priorities, investments and actions.

I have supported many integration efforts and I have found that there are four areas that are closely related, that if addressed effectively – no matter how large or complex the M&A may be – could ensure a much more successful integration of the newly acquired organization:

  1. Establish an environment where people can communicate and dialogue about the M&A in a candid, authentic, courageous, and effective way. M&A efforts are often stalled or undermined because the executives try to quickly address the redundancies, overlaps and duplications. This includes the nuts and bolts of reorganizing, restructuring, scaling and letting people go inside an environment and atmosphere of mutual suspicion, guardedness, and defensiveness, as well as lack of trust, respect, candor, and authentic communication. Trying to do things fast often slows them down because people say all the politically correct things, but when they can’t really express how they feel, they walk away paying lip service to whatever has been agreed to.
  2. Elicit genuine ownership on both sides for the success of the M&A. In most M&As, one party feels ‘taken-over’ or victimized by the other. While this dynamic is understandable, it undermines the ability of both organizations to succeed in their integration. From the start, it is critical for the leaders to create an environment in which everyone on both sides of the aisle genuinely owns, feels committed to, and is accountable for the success of the integration process and its outcome.
  3. Enable both parties to complete their respective pasts in an honorable and empowering way. Each team or company has its own unique legacy of culture, brand name, competencies, ways of doing things, heritage and identity, which its people often feel proud of, and attached to. In order to move forward with a new shared identity, people need to ‘complete their respective pasts’ – or differently said ‘grieve for the end of an era.’ When both sides – especially the acquired – feel respected, heard, considered, included, recognized, and validated for their legacy, it creates space for all parties to enthusiastically partner in order to make the next chapter bigger than anything any of them have achieved in their past.
  4. Align the newly combined teams around a shared future and identity that embody the best of both cultures and operations. To create a reality where the new whole is greater than the sum of its historical parts, the two organizations or teams have to articulate and align on a new bold and compelling shared future. Both parties have to equally own, feel committed to, accountable for and energized about their new joined future. Unifying the teams around a shared future and identity will immediately create genuine excitement and urgency on both sides to clarify, align, streamline and scale roles, functions, structures, and responsibilities. When creating the future, it is important to consider and include the positive attributes and uniqueness of each organization in order to avoid the trap of one company feeling crushed by the other.

There’s no doubt that it is hard to integrate newly acquired organizations. However, there are some basic common-sense things that could be done to make the task more successful, that in most M&As are still not being done.

If executives stop paying lip service to the cultural, personal and human aspects of their integration and they start putting their money where their mouth is, I am confident that we will start seeing the grim M&A statistics change course.

Stay real and don’t be blinded by slogans and buzzwords…

The use of catchy slogans internally across organizations and even within individual functions is becoming ever more prevalent.  Slogans like: “Winning Together”, “New ideas. Better HR”, “We deliver results” and the like, are slogans we will all recognize.

Similarly, buzzwords like “Empowerment”, “Accountability” and “Collaboration” also get liberally used, often without substance.

Slogans and buzzwords in and of themselves are not bad. In fact, most of these represent healthy characteristics and direction. I understand the reasoning behind them. Everyone is overworked and under-resourced so leaders who want to energize, motivate and inspire their people are constantly looking for the latest fads; new messages, slogans and ways to infuse renewed energy and hope to the troops. That is a commendable endeavor.

However, the problem begins when slogans and buzzwords limit leaders’ ability to see straight, face reality and own the issues and gaps they have around them.

I was working with a finance division of a global technology company. Team members were very good at what they did but the different departments within the larger division worked as fragmented silos with little collaboration, communication and sharing. It was actually worse, there was internal competition between departments which often caused major issues in the overall ability of the department to provide excellent support to its clients.

The head of the division decided to put an end to the dysfunctionality and turn his division into a cohesive team. He took his managers to an offsite session where he laid down the new law. All managers, some reluctantly, committed to the change. To commemorate their watershed meeting the managers decided to brand their effort and its purpose: “We are One Finance”.

At first, people made an effort to better behave consistently with the new slogan. However, after a while, things started to slip and deteriorate again. No one really paid attention to the deterioration because everyone was still captivated by, and referencing the team slogan “We are One Finance”. The dissonance between the slogan and reality got wider. It took a long time for the team to confront their reality of things being bad again.

Take another example in a different organization. I was sitting in a meeting in which the team members were reviewing their strategic initiatives. They had ten initiatives, which they clustered into three groups. Each initiative had a junior manager leading them, and each cluster had a senior manager leading them.

While creating the clusters made sense from an efficiency standpoint, as there were fewer clusters than initiatives, and while the senior managers kept stressing that this model enabled “Strategic Alignment”, “Business Collaboration” and “Scale” between initiatives, many of the junior managers running the initiatives didn’t buy it. They were frustrated because they felt that this structure added no value to the initiatives themselves, only to the status of the senior managers running them.

At some point in the meeting there was a heated exchange between one of the cluster leads and one of the initiative leads, in which the initiative leader again challenged the value of the cluster model. The cluster lead insisted that there was significant strategic and business value to the model because, as he claimed the initiative leads under him were strategizing and collaborating among themselves.

I looked around the room and the body language was deafening. People were rolling their eyes, whispering to each, texting other and passing notes.


Because everyone in the room knew that what the junior manager was claiming was in fact true – there was no strategic alignment, business collaboration or scale taking place between the initiatives. Each initiative lead ran his or her own initiative in isolation and the only time there was any exchange between them was when they had to give the senior cluster manager their PowerPoint slide for his quarterly reviews.

This is a common example of leaders being so consumed with their own slogans and buzzwords that they can’t see the reality around them.

The slogans and buzzwords are not the problem, it’s how leaders relate to them.

So, don’t be hypnotized by any slogan or buzzword, no matter how powerful or relevant they may be. Keep your eyes and mind open and stay real! Otherwise, you will stop seeing objectively what is working and what is not around you. You will check your mental box and believe that everything is going well regardless of the facts.

Don’t swing to the other side either and be one of these people who is always cynical and sarcastic about any slogan or buzzword. That attitude produces a negative environment too.

And, if you happen to fall into oblivion, don’t get defensive or passive-aggressive if people around you try to wake you up. If you do, you could have a worse situation on your hands – an issue with no one feeling safe enough to address it. We all know how that story ends.