Are you balancing the long term and short term?

Most teams and companies do a poor job balancing the short term and long term focus. I see this without exception in most sectors and regions.

People say all the right things about how important it is to focus on the long term. They say things like: “Markets are changing,” “Customers are asking to consume new things in new ways,” “Technologies have advanced and it requires us to advance too,” and “We need to incubate new ideas and the next generation’s products and services.”

They even say things like: “We need to invest in order to make money and grow,” “We need to be prepared to sacrifice some of our short-term in order to gain the benefits of the long-term,” and the ultimate:  “Our future success depends on it.”

However, in reality, they manage things in a very short-term perspective, focus, thinking, and mindset. Furthermore, they judge and rate the health and success of their business based on short-term performance, events, and results and they react to circumstances based on short-term successes or failures.

Leaders and managers often tell me things like: “We say we should be willing to sacrifice our short-term for our long-term, but instead we keep sacrificing our long-term for our short-term.”

For example, if they had a bad month in terms of performance, they stop longer-term initiatives or put them on alert or hold, and they hesitate to invest in and green-light new initiatives. If they had a good month, they tend to let things continue.

The whole point of having a vision and strategy is to provide teams with a framework and context for thinking about the longer-term future of their business. A good strategy for the future should make people comfortable about setting priorities, as well as making choices, decisions, and tradeoffs in the short-term.

An effective strategy also provides teams and leaders with the courage and confidence to invest in a desirable future that they have outlined and articulated in advance, even when, perhaps especially when they have some turbulence and inconsistencies in their short-term performance.

However, it seems that even teams and companies who have a sound strategy have a tough time trusting it, relying on it, and using it to empower themselves to better juggle their long-term and short-term initiatives.

How is your team doing in this regard?

Life is Too Short to Compromise

My wife and I try to live life according to the mantra: “life is too short to compromise.”

There are multiple phrases you could put at the end of the phrase: “Life is too short to….”Wait for what you want, …Hold back, …Spend time with people who drain your energy rather than give you energy, or …Not express your love to the people you care about.

However, how often do we actually stop to reflect if we are living our life accordingly?

Living without compromising on the important things is a powerful and courageous way to live.

How many times have you compromised on personal and/or professional relationships that mattered to you, or sold out on doing things to the standards of quality and excellence that you believe in?

I have taken a commitment to not compromise on the things that are important to me. And, the older (and wiser!) I get, the easier it becomes to live this way.

However, being human, I have slipped on occasion when it comes to living consistently with my principles and values. However, because I am so passionate about living authentically, I have developed antennas that detect my missteps and help me to quickly catch myself and adjust my course.

All of us, including you, have the same antennas. We just have to “activate” them.

What are our antennas? Frustration, irritation and suffering. Whenever I compromise or sell out on my principles and values, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated and irritable, even about mundane things. When I recognize these emotions, I ask myself “what is going on?” and I’m always able to get to the bottom of it. These feelings, especially if they persist, lead to insights about areas where I have compromised.

How do you activate your antennas? By taking a stand. I know it sounds too simple, but it really works. When you take a stand, you commit to living consistently with your principles without compromising. This sets the bar. As a result, you become hypersensitive to any area around you– including your own behavior– that contradicts your stand.

If you don’t take a stand, you are less likely to detect these guiding feelings. As a result, you can miss the opportunity to shift gears and take corrective action.

I have learned that if I remain true to my values, even in the face of challenges, I always feel good. However, if I compromise my values, even if the circumstances around me are great, I don’t feel satisfied.

The good news is that we always have control over how we live. In what area of your life do you need to stop compromising?

Photo by: Shashank Mhasawade

Why Your Online Reputation Matters More Than Ever

In the past, if you fired or laid off an employee, any dirty laundry would have been contained to solely the parties involved—and maybe family and friends. Today, that laundry can be aired to everyone.

Welcome to the Social Era.

The importance of protecting our businesses’ reputation online in order to be able to attract high quality customers is nothing new. But a new study by CareerArc, a global HR technology provider of social recruiting and outplacement services, sheds light on another significant reason—online identities are crucial for hiring and retaining top talent.

According to the report, the past five years marked the longest streak in job growth on record in the United States. With the increased opportunities, comes an increased quit rate because workers want to keep their options open. As a result, employers’ reputations are more important now than ever before.

After reading the report, which surveyed about 1,600 professionals, I want to share five key takeaways that will help you protect your brand in this new era.


  1. Don’t burn bridges. The survey found that one in three respondents who have been terminated or laid off had left one negative review of that former employer on a review site, social media, or with a personal or professional contact. Interestingly, even though Baby Boomers were almost 2.5 times more likely than Millennials to have been reported as laid off or terminated, Millennials were more likely to share negative opinions about their former employers.
  2. Manage the relationship with the people you are letting go, as well as those you are hiring. Past employees can impact your future ones. What past employees say about you online is really important to your prospective ones. Upon hearing of a job opportunity, 52 percent of job seekers search an organization’s online properties — first, like websites and social media channels — to learn more about the employer’s brand identity and company culture. Seventy-five percent of them consider the employer’s brand before even applying for a job. (Note: Facebook and LinkedIn topped the list of social media platforms job seekers would likely visit to learn more about an employer’s brand identity and company culture).
  3. Have an effective social media platform. What you say about yourself and what others say about you online leaves an impression. Ninety-one percent of professionals viewed poorly managed or unattractive websites and social media channels as damaging to an employer’s brand. Similarly, a majority reported bad online reviews on products and services along with negative remarks on employer review sites as more damaging to the company’s brand than negative opinions from people they know.
  4. Build a strong culture that motivates your people and treats them well. How you treat your employees is really important. Working professionals, across generations and employment statuses, reported that employee treatment—which includes company culture, work flexibility, health and wellness programs, etc.—was the most important factor in considering employer brand, followed by honesty and transparency. These qualities ranked above career opportunities, corporate social responsibility programs, and strong brand recognition and popularity.
  5. Manage your communication with job seekers effectively. How you treat your job seekers is important, too. Seventy-two percent of workers reported that not being notified of the status or decision made on their application leaves a negative impression of that employer. The survey found that over a third of employers admitted to never notifying applicants, even though 76 percent of employers knew it likely left a bad impression among candidates.

Despite the advent of the Social Era and the accompanying increased significance of employer brands, only 57 percent of the employers surveyed actually have an employer brand strategy. However, 93 percent, report that they plan to increase, continue, or begin investment in social media to promote employer brand within the next year. The ones that follow through will be on their way to hiring and keeping the most talented employees in the workforce.

Click here to download CareerArc’s 2015 Employer Branding Study.

Photo by: Marcie Casas


Work-life balance is possible…if you change your approach

Many people struggle with the notion of maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Ambitious, driven and committed people want to be successful in all aspects of their life, not just their professional career. They want to have it all. They want to have a great marriage, nurturing family life, fantastic health and fitness and a satisfying social life. And, they want to have or achieve all these desires simultaneously.

There is a notion that the Europeans have more of a “Work in order to Live” mindset while in North America, we tend to “Live in order to Work.” I think this is somewhat true. However, I have also seen from my own experience working with people from many countries and cultures that no matter what people say in public, most people who are healthy and ambitious tend to approach work as the highest life priority. Even in Europe.

This is the case because people tend to relate to their life desires and commitments as priorities, not promises.

The premise for “priorities” is fundamentally different from “promises”:

Seeing as we only have a finite number of hours in the day and scarce resources, we often feel as though we cannot accomplish everything we want. The “priorities” approach says, “We are not going to be able to achieve everything we want, therefore let’s put all our desires in order of importance so we can tackle them in that order. If we had 15 items in our priority list and only got to 6 of them – that is fine. After all, that is why we prioritized them in the first place.”

This paradigm reinforces the expectation that we won’t be able to achieve everything we desire or consider important.

In contrast, the “promises” approach says, “We are not going to be able to achieve everything we want, therefore, let’s pick the few things that are most important for us and promise them unconditionally.”

In the world of promising – a promise is a promise. In other words, if you promise multiple promises, each is equal in weight. You are holding yourself accountable for fulfilling each promise, without hierarchy of importance among them.

The “promises” paradigm compels and even requires you to be more innovative and resourceful about how you juggle and achieve all your promised areas. It also drives you to get support from people around you, delegate things to others, and overall build a network and structure of support in your community.

In the world of “priorities,” people often excuse or justify not achieving some of their desired areas and commitments because of other areas. For example, I often hear people say things like: “I just didn’t get to it,” “I didn’t have enough time or money to do it,” or “it wasn’t a high enough priority at the time.”

However, in the world of “promises,” people remain accountable and responsible for following through–no matter what the circumstances are.

I meet too many frustrated people who are out of shape or overweight who tell me, “I have been so busy with my job I didn’t have time to exercise.

I meet too many unhappy people who have issues in their relationship or marriage who tell me, “I lost my marriage because I was a workaholic.”

I meet too many unfulfilled people who have abandoned their passions and hobbies who tell me, “I stopped playing my instrument or playing tennis because I had too much going on in my life.”

If you relate to all your key life desires and commitments as clear equal promises, you will start dealing with them differently.

For example, you could promise:

  • I promise to have an amazing marriage.
  • I promise to be a parent who is highly present and involved in my children’s lives.
  • I promise to have a very successful career.
  • I promise to be healthy, vital and fit.
  • I promise to be a contributing member to my church, synagogue or community.
  • I promise to have an active and satisfying social life.

Relating to your life desires and commitments as priorities is an easier way to live because you always have a way out, an excuse or something else to blame for not living up to your desires and having it all.

In contrast, relating to your life desires and commitments as promises may seem harder at first, but if you fully take it on it will afford you a much more inspiring, nurturing and satisfying life.


Just do it

There is something to be said about “just doing it.” I sometime refer to it as “Fake it till you make.” Alternatively, in plain English this means: “Doing what you said, even when you don’t feel like it.” Sometime it feels like: “Doing what you don’t like doing in order to achieve what you do want to achieve.”

It seems a simple enough concept. However, so many people struggle with this personally and/or professionally.

One of the biggest reasons why people don’t achieve what they want is lack of sufficient action. Most people fail to achieve their dreams and aspirations because they don’t make the effort, they don’t take the action or they don’t stay the course with their actions. They give up too quickly.

I have heard different statistics about this, however it is said that it took Thomas Edison around 5,000 to 10,000 trials before he invented the light bulb. If it were up to most of us, we would still be in the dark ages.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t take action is because of the numerous stories, explanations, justifications and excuses we fall prey to when it is time to take actions.

As I have written in previous blogs, our mind – or: our inner voice – tends to go out of its way to subtly and smoothly get us out of any vulnerable or uncomfortable situation. And, as we know, most things that are worth doing or accomplishing require at least some degree of vulnerability and comfort.

Have any of the following things ever happen to you?

  1. You are sitting in a meeting and you know that some important detail is being avoided in the dialogue because of internal politics. You want to say something to put things straight, but your inner voice says to you, “Don’t do it! It’s risky! You are doing so well, why do you need the trouble? Let someone else be the sucker!” You sit there and don’t say a word.
  2. You are trying to lose weight and as part of your program you have committed to getting up early three times a week to exercise before you go to work. Your alarm clock wakes you up at 5:30am, you feel groggy and your inner voice says to you, “Getting up this early is crazy. You barely slept enough. It’s unhealthy. It’s much more effective to exercise in the evening or midday than this early in the morning…” You turn to the other side and fall back to sleep.
  3. You are trying to lose weight and as part of your program you have committed to stay off all sweet things and desserts, which you really love. You have kept your discipline for two weeks now, but it is not easy for you to avoid the temptations. In fact, you’ve lost more weight than you had planned this far. You come home late in the evening after another long day. You are tired, cranky and hungry from eating lettuce all week. You open the fridge and you see a slice of your favorite cake that someone didn’t finish. Your inner voice says to you, “You have been so good this week, plus you are doing so well in your diet. There is no harm in eating just one piece. It won’t ruin your diet. You deserve it!” You take the cake and eat it up.

There is a reality out there and then there are all our internal conversations about that reality. Our internal chatter is usually geared around why we shouldn’t or can’t do or have things. Unfortunately, you cannot stop the internal conversations. They are a built-in feature of being human.

However, if you understand this internal human mechanism, you have the option of bypassing it. What that means in reality is “just do what you say, regardless of how you feel about it or what your inner voice is telling you.”

It’s easier said than done. However, if you can overcome this, you will have a big advantage and power in achieving your objectives and dreams.

The good new is that the more you just do it, the easier it will become to repeat this behavior, because your inner voice will have less control over your actions.

Why is it so hard to do the right thing?

Many years ago when I was still living in Israel, the government launched a national campaign to reduce the outrageously high rate of casualties on the highways. The campaign slogan was: “On the road be wise, not right.”

That slogan stayed with me over the years. I found it to be such a powerful and relevant principle for living.

In my work I coach leaders and teams. I have seen that even when people genuinely want to work together in a more authentic, courageous and effective way, it is often hard for them to do so. In most cases, people know what works and the right thing to do. However, it is still often hard to actually follow through.

For example:

  1. People know that gossiping about colleagues, “trashing” them and throwing them under the bus are undermining and hurtful, but they still do it.
  2. People know that saying one thing and doing another doesn’t work, but they still do it.
  3. People know that blaming other teams and people doesn’t fix the problem, in fact it makes it worse, but they still do it.

So why is it so hard for us to do what we know is right and truly effective?

I guess it is our survival mechanism…every creature in the jungle has one. Ours is our brain… or more accurately our memory. Here’s a likely explanation about how this works:

If we only remembered the good experiences that happen to us, we would walk around with a big smile on our face in blissful ignorance unconcerned with, and unattentive to potential threats and dangers that could come our way.

In order to prevent the exposure and vulnerability that occur when being overly positive, our brain holds onto negative experiences. In fact our brain thinks that even if we remembered the good and traumatic experiences equally, we could get complacent. It won’t even take that chance. So, our brain tends to mainly promote the traumatic, hurtful and negative experiences. For obvious reasons it feels these are more useful to keep us out of harms way.

It’s not that we walk around all day, everyday feeling traumatized and upset… well, some of us may be in that state from time to time… these memories tend to come up when the brain feels they could be most necessary for survival. For example: these memories often arise when we are about to make a bold personal or career decision. When we are about to take a risk or put ourselves in a vulnerable position, the brain alerts us through these memories that “this is not a good idea.

Having awareness of this mechanism empowers us to think for ourselves and make our own choices rather than allow our instinctual brain to think for us.

The assumption here is that we have a brain but we are not our brain.

We always have a choice whether to be right or be wise. By the way, not choosing is the worst form of choice. It’s choosing without taking responsibility.

If you choose to be right you will do things like:

  1. Gossip about others rather than communicate.
  2. Dwell in negative, cynical, sarcastic conversations.
  3. Blame others when things don’t work.
  4. Hold back information and communication that could benefit the greater good.
  5. Cover your behind when you feel vulnerable or exposed.
  6. Pay lip service to commitments and projects.
  7. Behave in passive aggressive ways.

If you choose to be wise we will do things like:

  1. Refuse to participate or engage in gossip, negative and backchannel conversations.
  2. Always have a positive outlook.
  3. Address issues openly, directly and completely and not let issues fester.
  4. Take responsibility for challenges and failures.
  5. Communicate and share information even when you feel vulnerable.
  6. Call people to the carpet when they are not doing what they said.
  7. Do what you say or let people know you won’t do it.

Being wise means doing the right thing, doing what you know works and always staying true to your principles, values and higher Self.

Being wise does not mean being perfect. If you want to be wise, you will make mistakes, screw up, stumble and fall. But, every time you recover and return to your commitment, you will become stronger for it.

Being wise, however, definitely requires courage.

Lastly, if you choose to be wise because it is consistent with who you are that choice will greatly empower and energize you. Try and see.

Photo by: Michael Krigsman

The Risk of Circumstantial Decisions

I was chatting with a good friend who is in a major career junction in his life. My friend is a fairly senior leader in one of the service functions in his company. He had been doing the same type of job for the last 15 years. Over these years, he advanced, he was promoted and grew the scope of his responsibilities. However, he remained in the same function serving similar business and sales units for all these years.

He was mentally tired of doing the same thing for so long. He felt he needed a change. He just wasn’t sure what the change should be.

His dilemma was – to look yet again for the next-level role within the same support function he was already a part of, or to make a more radical move into one of the business units in order to start a new career in sales.

As he put it: “I could climb one more rung in the same ladder or put myself at the bottom of a new scale.”

The prospect of starting a whole new career in sales was the more appealing option to my friend. In fact, he received an attractive offer to transition into one of the local sales organizations as a sales leader. However, he had many reservations and fears about this potential transition.

As we were sipping our tea, he outlined the pros and cons of this decision.

His main pros were: (1) His direct functional boss supported his move out of the function, (2) The regional and local sales leaders also supported his move into their organization, and (3) The regional sales leader even offered allowances in responsibility to support his transition into the role.

The offer my friend received to move into sales seemed very appealing. In fact, my friend described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime offer not to be missed.”

On the other hand, my friend’s main cons and fears were: (1) what if he failed, (2) what if he disappointed the people who believed in him, and (3) his direct boss, as well as the regional and local sales leaders were themselves in a career junction and looking for their next assignment, so the likelihood of them staying around in the long term seemed slim.

My friend turned to me and asked – “What should I do?”

My guidance to him was:

1. You should feel very proud about the offer you received to move from a support function to sales. Not many people receive such an offer. It is a testament to your great personality, brand and leadership qualities and energy.
2. However, only accept the offer to move into sales if you are sure you want to develop a new career in sales. In other words, being a sales leader should be your aspiration and you must be willing to do what it takes to learn this new trait.
3. No matter how much encouragement and support you are currently receiving from people around you to make the move, sooner or later these people will all move on and you will be left alone, needing to stand on your own two feet. So, only make the move if you are fully prepared to continue your course with enthusiasm if/when this happens.
4. In fact, even the allowances that the regional sales leader is making today will soon expire and you will be expected to perform the complete duties of a sales leader, with all the personal stress associated with it.
5. In addition, given that you are “putting yourself on the bottom of a new scale,” it is inevitable that you will make mistakes, screw up, fail and disappoint people around you. Furthermore, there will be many moments along your journey when you will feel inadequate and that you are letting others down. It comes with the territory.
6. Because of all these things – ONLY make the decision to move to sales if this decision is based on your personal stand, not on circumstances and expectations. I call this type of decision an unconditional decision.

The moral of the story is:

When you base your decision on circumstances and these circumstances change, as they often do, the whole foundation for your decision is invalidated and you can easily abandon your direction or give up.

But, if you base your decision purely on your stand – even if circumstances around you change or worsen, the merit of your decision remains in tact and you are likely to stay the course and weather even the fiercest of storms.

Photo by: Daniel Oines

Even senior executives need to build their team

True Story: I was coaching a senior executive – fictional name: George – who is the head of a big division in a global technology company and he was expressing his frustration about the fact that his direct reports, who are also senior executives, were not gelling together as a team the way he needed them to and the way he expected and hoped they would.

George’s organization went through significant changes in the last year because he was asked to take on an expanded mandate of running one of the key growth areas of the company. As a result, he ended up with a brand new team that was larger than what he had before. He also inherited a senior leadership team that was comprised of more senior executives than he had before.

Being senior executives, each of George’s direct leaders had a sizable organization, budget and mandate in their own right. His leaders were also a collection of highly opinionated people who had type-A personalities and didn’t like to collaborate, share or allow others to interfere with their businesses or organizations.

But, they were all seasoned executives who knew how to play the corporate political game. In leadership team meetings, they all said the right things. However, after the meetings ended, they often paid lip service to what the team agreed to and each went on his or her merry way to do things the way they wanted.

When the leaders had issues with each other, they would come to George and complain to him about their peers, rather than engaging in courageous conversations with their teammates to address and resolve conflicts and issues.

George was not alone in his frustrations and predicament. I have supported many other senior executives with the same challenges and dilemmas.

What I have noticed is that senior executives tend to have a paradigm about their leadership team to the effect of: because their leaders are senior, they should work together more effectively to resolve issues between them. In fact, they are capable of becoming a team by themselves, without needing the help of their senior leader.

Because of this view, many senior executives tend to adopt a management style in which they do not spend enough time with their leaders. Their logic assumes, “their leaders are highly paid senior executives, hence, they don’t need hand holding.” This assumption leads them to leave their direct reports to deal with conflicts, challenges and issues–many of which stem from bigger organizational design issues–by themselves, while they deal with the higher level things.

This paradigm is fundamentally flawed and a big mistake. I have seen it weaken teams many times.


People are always people and teams are always teams, no matter how senior they are. A team always needs to have a leader whose role is to unify and inspire the members around a common platform and purpose.

In fact, one could make the case that the more senior the executives are, the more crucial it is to build the leadership team as a real team. Senior leaders tend to like their silod independence, even if it comes at the expense of the collective effectiveness of the larger organization. So, without a deliberate and focused effort by their senior leader to gel them as a team, they would happily continue to work on their area and avoid dealing with the conflicts, challenges and issues with their peers.

Yes, creating a dynamic in a team where the leaders are running the day-to-day operations of the business, as well as dealing with conflict and issues among themselves without needing their senior leader to baby sit them and mediate between them is a desirable state. However, if a leaders wants to create that reality they must first spend enough time in collective leadership team meetings and one-on-one coaching and development sessions with their leaders in order to ensure that their team has the right level of collective trust, cohesion, communication and team spirit to work more independently as a strong unit and take the game to the next level.

The role of a leader is always to build their team. At all levels! This is something they must never outsource to others or neglect.

What are you resigned about?

Have you become apathetic about something you care about? This may seem like a strange question. After all, it assumes that you are resigned about something that is important to you.

However, I believe most of us are resigned about something that is important to us a good chunk of the time. If we have strong self-awareness, commitment and discipline we may be able to pull ourselves out of apathy every time we fall into it. But, I think resignation is unavoidable for human beings. I am not suggesting that all of us are apathetic all the time. But, it is the nature of people to dream and aspire, but when things don’t go as planned, we often become resigned and apathetic.

This happens all too often. We see a possibility for ourselves in an area that is important to us, perhaps it’s about being more successful, making more money, being healthier, having a relationship or simply being happier. We believe it can really come true for us. We open our heart to it, and this makes us very excited and hopeful. We feel that “everything is possible,” and “we can have it all.” Call it falling in love, with our life.

We then step out into the world and things don’t quite pan out the way we anticipated; it’s harder to stay with the program or drive progress or results than we expected, others aren’t as receptive, collaborative or supportive as we hoped, and results don’t happen as fast and big as we planned.

At first, we get a little discouraged but when reality continues to be challenging, a nagging doubt begins to emerge. After a while, we start second guessing our dreams or our abilities. Finally, deeper discouragement descends that often leads to resignation, apathy and giving up.

Our internal conversations change throughout this progression too. As stated above, at first we feel like “everything is possible” and “life is grand.” Then, we slide into personal invalidation: “What was I thinking?” and “I wasn’t cut out for this level of success or happiness.” Then, we avalanche into undermining overgeneralizations like: “life isn’t a fairytale,” and “I need to lower my expectations.”

Resignation manifests in different forms and at different levels. Sometimes we are clear that we are resigned. We feel generally apathetic and upset, discouraged or depressed about what we feel we can’t do, achieve or obtain. Sometimes, the fact that it’s hard to get out of bed is a clear indication that we are resigned.

But, often apathy doesn’t feels to us like apathy. We go about our normal life lacking motivation, energy and inspiration, but it seems like what we are experiencing is normal, just the way life is.

We often don’t realize that the negative feelings and thinking are rooted in apathy and resignation about something that is important to us.

Have you noticed that when people are resigned about the possibility of achieving or getting what they want, they tend rationalize things, justify themselves and generally have more of a cynical or even sarcastic attitude about their struggles?

For example, people who are overweight often tend to downplay the importance of healthy eating and exercising. People who are not in a relationship tend to have negative perspectives on the importance of relationships or marriage. And people who can’t get promoted tend to blame others or the corporate environment.

The logic of this reaction is clear – it is too painful to take 100% ownership of our current situation. Most of us can’t stay in bed and give up altogether, so we resort to adopting a victim mentality, becoming cynical or numb and apathetic about our unfulfilled aspirations. We find ways to avoid feeling the pain every day.

The good news is that resignation and apathy are actually very normal and natural for people. You are not alone and resignation is not insurmountable. The key is how to catch it quickly and transform it.

To transform your apathy, you need to first own your reality. You have to be honest about the fact that you are in fact resigned about an area of your life. When you are honest and own your predicament, you become more authentic and stop pretending like you have your act together and everything is going well. By being more authentic, you can start exploring new ways to achieve what you really want.

After all, we all know that there is always more than one way to get things done. In fact, many times the new ways we derive after we get unstuck turn out to be even more effective and inspiring than our original plans.

Owning your resignation and apathy also allows you to return to your original sense of possibility and commitment. Once you are back on the saddle, you probably don’t need any help!

Stop the Passive Aggressive Behavior

In most organizations, passive aggressive behavior is rampant.

The dictionary defines passive aggressive as: a type of behavior or personality characterized by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation, as in procrastinating, pouting, or misplacing important materials.

In reality, passive aggressive behavior is actually much worse than this definition suggests.

Typical passive aggressive behavior happens in environments where people don’t feel they can fully express their feelings and thoughts–especially the negative ones. So, instead of communicating openly, authentically, courageously and effectively, people tend to pretend that everything is going well, even when they really feel the opposite – irritated, upset and/or angry about what is going on.

They say the positive, politically correct things out loud in the most positive, politically correct and “respectful” manner. But inside, they feel otherwise. This dissonance between the spoken and unspoken conversations creates tension, stress and awkwardness and people often feel they have to walk on eggshells around each other.

Because people who are behaving in a passive aggressive manner make such a big effort to appear as if they are positive about things, they often feel no one is noticing that they are inauthentic. However, for the most part, everyone around them sees through their behavior.

In a passive aggressive environment, the problems go beyond simply walking on eggshells. People also become reluctant and afraid to push back on sensitive topics, address conflict or hold each other accountable for behaviors and performance. People often say “yes” to things and then pay lip service to these. As a result productivity is significantly compromised and undermined.

Some people behave in a passive aggressive manner because they are afraid of their own volatile reactions to challenging situations. They don’t trust their ability to communicate effectively, especially when it comes to conveying criticism and disagreement. They fear that if they really express themselves, especially their frustration and anger, it will get out of hand. Others are afraid that if they fully expressed themselves they’ll get into trouble with their superiors and as a result their career will suffer. So, people simply avoid conflict and don’t say what is really on their mind. This only perpetuates and fuels the source of the passive aggressive behavior. I see this dynamic at all levels of all companies that I am exposed to.

Pent up emotions, frustrations and unexpressed communications are like bottled energy. Eventually, this energy must be released. The more it stays bottled up, the more likely it is to explode when triggered. This often happens at the most inappropriate times, in the most unproductive ways. When people “lose it,” it usually creates damage beyond proportion.

Other avenues of release for the unexpressed feelings are gossip and background noise. As we all know there is a lot of this going on in most organizations. People say one thing in public and another in the conversations around the cooler. And, again, that dissonance hurts organizational spirit, trust and performance.

So, how do you stop it?

Given that passive aggressive behavior lives in communication, it has to be transformed in communication. This requires leadership, ownership, commitment and courage, first by the leaders and managers.

If leaders are willing to create an open, honest environment for communication where people can fully communicate and express their views, they can stop the passive aggressive behavior. But it has to start with them.

However, if leaders are too afraid to be vulnerable, or they don’t trust themselves to create a more powerful and authentic space of communication around them, or they are simply too caught up in the passive aggressive behavior themselves, nothing will change. In fact, they will continue to be a part of the problem.

They will most likely continue to hide behind their title and authority in order to avoid hearing bad news or criticism, especially about them selves. By doing that they will perpetuate the issues and drive their team to more passive aggressive behavior.

Individual team members can also transform passive aggressive dynamics with other individuals, independent of their leaders and managers. They too have to behave with courage and commitment. They could show up as genuinely open to feedback, coaching and open, honest, authentic and courageous dialogue by enrolling and engaging others to always interact with them that way.

The more trust people create with others around them, the less passive aggressive behaviors will take place.

A manufacturing plant supervisor I worked with once told me: “I make sure to have lunch with my people every day, because people don’t screw someone they have lunch with.”

Ownership: The Key to Transforming Your Team or Organization

Transforming the culture of an organization or team is not easy. It is a long-term process. It doesn’t happen overnight. And, typically, it is not a smooth ride. There are ups and downs, moments of excitement, feelings of progress and success, as well as moments of frustration that things are not moving fast enough or not at all.

There are three typical phases in any transformational process: (1) creation and launch, (2) concentrated effort and execution, and (3) momentum and breakthrough.

The first phase of creation and launch is the easiest phase of the process and typically very energizing. In this phase, people envision and commit to a compelling future state for their organization and/or team, and everyone is excited and hopeful about achieving a great vision.

The second phase of concentrated effort and execution is the hardest and most challenging phase of any transformation journey. In this phase, people have to work hard to start achieving the objectives they took on in the creation and launch phase, while at the same time continue to run their day-to-day business. So, in this phase, people have to manage two jobs – creating the new future AND maintaining the existing. Juggling these two worlds requires foresight, vision and stance.

It actually becomes even more challenging – in the second phase people have to put their heads down and execute on what they took on in phase one, and it usually takes time before they can see the fruits of their labor. I often refer to it as putting in 10 units of effort in order to get 1 unit of progress/results. So, you can appreciate why people need to keep believing and operating with their future state in mind.

Think of it through the “caterpillar-to-butterfly” analogy. In phase one, the caterpillar gets excited about the prospect of being a butterfly who is free to roam with no restrictions. Then, in the second phase, the caterpillar finds himself inside the cocoon and suddenly life doesn’t look as exciting as it did in phase one. In fact, any normal caterpillar can become discouraged quite quickly about the whole butterfly idea. Suddenly, becoming a butterfly seems much less achievable and attractive than before.

This is exactly the emotional roller coaster organizations and teams go through in their transformation process – especially in the second phase.

Here is an example: I was working with a large service company on their transformation. They wanted to take their culture, performance and results to a new level. In phase one, they created a very powerful and exciting future vision and strategy that everyone felt genuinely excited about. Their strategy included initiatives that were designed to change the game in key areas that were important to them.

Then it was time to execute on these new initiatives and it wasn’t easy at all. Every time I would come to the organization for coaching sessions people would stop me in the hallways to brief me on how things were going.

I was getting two different types of reports from different people – some would pull me into their office to tell me how well things were going. Others stopped me to complain and tell me how badly things were going.

Many of the people who were complaining to me about the process seemed to be telling me that “my program wasn’t working.”

This mindset of reduced ownership for the change is very typical in phase two. The problem with thinking that the program is my program is that this is neither true nor empowering. This point of view reflects lack of ownership.

When I help an organization go to the next level, I facilitate programs to bring about change. However, I always make a point to remind people that they are not participating in my program. Rather, I am supporting them in their program. That paradigm of ownership is much more effective and empowering.

In fact, my ability to help the organization in its transformation is in direct correlation to the level of ownership the organization has toward their transformation process. So, I am constantly pushing on that aspect. The power and magic of transformation is in the ownership.

The big question of ownership for any team is: What future are you going to prove right?

It may seem an odd question at first. But, if you think about it – everyone is always proving something right, by default or by design. Either that their transformation will work and therefore is working OR that it won’t work, and therefore it isn’t working. That’s what the phrase – the game is over before it began – means.

When a team owns their process and they are out to prove that it works, they will go out of their way to figure it out. They won’t waste time complaining because that just doesn’t change anything. Think of it as “making lemonades from lemons” rather than complaining that “the lemons are so sour.”

Phase two takes time and a lot of perseverance. It’s not about perfection but about progress – continuing to drive progress and own the journey.

The third phase of momentum and breakthrough is the most rewarding phase of the transformation journey. But it only happens when the team stays the course in phase two. Unfortunately, so many teams fail in their transformational process because they simply don’t stay the course in phase two. They lack ownership, foresight and perseverance.

But, when they do, things start picking up and taking off, and in a hockey stick trend the team starts achieving momentum, results and breakthroughs beyond their expectation and imagination.

Photo by: Laura Bittner

You can have it all if you are willing to do what it takes

Someone wise once told me that there are two things that make people upset: one is that they don’t get what they want, and the other is when they do get what they want.

The first reason always made complete sense to me. I could understand from my own life experience how failing to achieve a goal or expectation could lead to upset. In fact, I have experienced a few of these in my lifetime.

But, the second scenario of being upset due to getting what we want initially seemed a bit more counterintuitive. It’s not that I didn’t or don’t understand the logic. I do. In fact, the more I have had the fortune to achieve success and growth, the more I have experienced the pains of growth, change and disruption.

If I look at some of the recent breakthroughs in my life, there were moments where I experienced them as upsets. For example: “I wanted to grow and elevate my business. Now I have more and bigger engagements. But, now I feel overwhelmed because I have too much work…” “I wanted to build a powerful social media platform, so I started writing and publishing every week. Now I am getting invited to write even more and I don’t have enough time to do it….” I guess that is why they say, “be careful what you wish for.”

I am very ambitious in my life. I want to achieve great things in all aspects of my life. I want to be wealthy, successful in my field, have an extraordinary marriage and family life, and be very healthy and fit. I am committed to having it all. In fact, I believe everyone has the ability to have this kind of life if they want.

But, what I am learning is that living a life oriented around having it all comes with tolls in the form of focus and intentionality, as well as being unreasonable, working hard and doing what it takes. It’s a very empowering price to pay for those who want this type of life. But, it is not for everyone.

For those of you who are on this same path or who want to get on this path, I want to lay out a few personal thoughts and discoveries about what is needed to achieve these ambitions.

Planning – I am finding that in order to make everything work, I have to plan my life in a much more deliberate, rigorous and sometime non-conventional manner. Often this includes setting a detailed schedule that includes specific times for when I’ll wake up, eat, exercise, spend time with my family members and go to sleep. This lifestyle is not for those who like to “go with the flow” or “be spontaneous.” People think that rigorous planning precludes spontaneity. It doesn’t. In fact, it can enhance it. When I am spending time with my wife, family members or clients, I can be fully present and engaged without worrying about things I am not doing or should be doing. Planning gives me freedom.

Team – You can’t have it all alone. You need your loved ones and professional team members on board with you. First, if you don’t they’ll likely get resentful and upset at some point when you reach the inevitable areas of turbulence and your plans are not working smoothly. This will slow or hinder your ability to have it all. Second, you need their genuine alignment, enthusiasm and collaboration to be a part of creating and living the great life you are building with and for them. Otherwise what’s the point? Thirdly, there are people in our environment who have skills that are mission critical for our well-being, happiness and success. We want to make sure they are fully engaged with us in our vision and values.

Innovation – Every time I hit a wall or obstacle, typically its something like – “I have too much work and I don’t have enough time or wherewithal to do everything” – my first reaction is suffering and upset. Then I remind myself… or to be honest often my wife reminds me…that “life is good” and the problem I am experiencing is a function of success not failure. Then I quickly start thinking about “given my vision to have it all, what new practices or structures do I need to put in place to enable me to fulfill everything I am up to?” For example: I have been traveling quite intensely in the last year so I have instituted a practice of taking my young daughter to lunch once or twice every week to have personal father-daughter time. Also, I go out with my older son every weekend for coffee for a couple of hours for father-son time. Even though these activities are planned, they are so enjoyable and all of us look forward to these every week.

Courage, as well as a positive and optimistic outlook – As you can imagine, the journey of an ambitious life isn’t always smooth and things don’t always go according to plan. In fact, sometimes it seems like things are not on track or nothing is working at all. But, I have noticed that the more I stay unconditionally focused on my vision and do my best at all times, things seem to always fall into place. It is one of these mysteries that I have learned to trust and depend on. It requires stamina for a marathon, not a sprint. And this way of living requires having faith and trusting myself, my vision and the universe (call it God if you want) to be on my side, give me luck and help me fulfill my dreams. All this requires courage to stay the course and not sell out on the important things, no matter what. I listen to my internal commitment versus the external circumstances and always look at things from a positive and optimistic point of view—especially when the immediate evidence seems otherwise.