What kind of leader do you want to be?

The CEO of a large global service organization was a very strong and tough leader. This enabled him to drive, almost single-handedly, significant and impressive changes in the structure, performance and market position of this organization.

His leaders admired the CEO for his bold leadership and the progress that he was driving. However pretty much all of them also felt intimidated by his strong personality and assertive and decisive leadership style.

The CEO stated that he wanted his leaders to be engaged and co-own and co-lead the company with him. However, in reality, he had such strong views about the business – which were often the right ones – that he infrequently actually listened or incorporated his leader’s ideas. And, the fact that he was wicked smart and knowledgeable about most aspects of the business, as well as an extremely rigorous and diligent leader presented an extremely high bar, which most of his people couldn’t match or live up to.

The members of the senior leadership team were frustrated because they weren’t making the difference, they felt they should and could be making and the difference they wanted to make. They felt they weren’t engaged and involved enough in influencing and shaping the important strategic topics and directions. They were also frustrated about the fact that they were not operating as a real cohesive and aligned team. They felt discouraged because they felt they couldn’t change their predicament. Needless to say, this company had significant alignment, teaming and cohesion challenges across and within its businesses and functions.

However, the story is not all bad. The company was making great progress and people, including the senior leaders, were feeling good about that.

Everyone wants to be part of a winning team. Everyone wants to be associated with great results. There are benefits from success – a sense of pride, satisfaction and often financial rewards too. That is why people are often willing to put up with a lot of hardship in order to stay associated with success.

Business success is important, but it isn’t everything. People spend the majority of their life at work. They dedicate so much of their heart and soul to their company’s cause. And, they often make a personal sacrifice for their job and put their work before their personal priorities.

The way you drive and achieve the results is often as important as the results themselves.

Unfortunately, many senior leaders still believe that business success is everything and the only thing that matters at work. They relate to team spirit, culture and job satisfaction as ‘nice to have’, but not a critical aspect of the business, or their job. So, they behave accordingly.

If you think back through your career and recall the most memorable teams you were part of, and impactful experiences you had – what do you remember most? The business results or the team dynamics, atmosphere, spirit, relationships and communications that took place that led to the business results. I am sure it is the latter.

People remember the leaders who inspired them by driving team unity, alignment, collaboration, growth, accomplishments, and pride. They remember the environment that enabled, empowered and encouraged them to be authentic, brave, express themselves, grow, be part of something bigger, and make a difference.

So, if you are a formal or informal leader or you want to be, you should ask yourself the questions:

  • What type of leader do I want to be?
  • What legacy do I want to leave on others?
  • What impact do I want to have on people that I lead?

Can you tolerate things getting worse before they get better?

Consider this rare and true example: A sales team of a technology company was struggling to achieve its objectives. Team members worked long hours, including weekends and holidays to meet their numbers, everyone felt overworked and stressed and needless to say “work-life balance” was a big issue. 

The General Manager of that organization, who was a bold, demanding and strategic leader, came out with an edict to transform his team’s predicament: “No one was allowed to work past 8pm on weekdays or at any time on the weekend.” He made it clear that everyone was still expected to deliver their numbers, and that offenders of his new instructions would suffer the consequence. At first, people were shocked. Many were skeptical. However, after firing the first person who violated his new policy people started to take notice.

In the first month, the team missed its numbers by 20%. Everyone expected the General Manager to cancel his “unrealistic” policy, but he didn’t. In the second month, the results were still around 10% below and only in month three did the team hit its numbers for the first time in a long time. What happened following the third month was quite extraordinary. Not only did the team start to consistently meet its number, but it actually often exceeded its numbers. In addition, something changed in the overall atmosphere within the team. The overall energy, commitment, and dialogue of the team shifted to be much more productive and powerful, and more oriented around how to do more with less.

Unfortunately, this example is indeed rare. Most leaders can’t tolerate even the slightest temporary dip in performance. They panic at the first sign of a dip, and they often react in negative ways that set the team back and send a message that they don’t have the courage and faith to stay the course.

This is especially true in publicly traded companies and the common justification for not taking risk is that it would negatively affect the stock performance.

Case in point, the senior leadership team of a technology company that had acquired a couple of companies and whilst in the process of fully integrating and leveraging its new assets it was struggling to achieve its sales results. After the first missed quarter people blamed it on the integration, so they didn’t make significant adjustments to the strategy. However, when their shortfall repeated itself next two quarters people started to get frustrated and discouraged. Some of the senior leaders urged the CEO to adjust the strategy and make bolder changes in order to plant the seeds for breaking out of the negative vicious circle. However, the CEO didn’t feel comfortable rocking the boat, so things continued to chug along. Eventually, the CEO did listen and make some changes, but he lost a lot of time and the goodwill of his people, stakeholders, and investors.

If you are a status quo leader driving a status quo agenda, you don’t have to worry about doing bold things. However, if you want to take on a bold objective or initiative there is a high likelihood that things will get worse before they get better. It’s not a slogan. If you can’t tolerate the rollercoaster ride, don’t get on the train.

But, without this courage, you will keep retreating backward instead of pushing forward to overcome your courage and resilience barrier.

The good news, however, is that if you do stay the course and reach the other side, things will get even better than they were before you started.


Are you just expecting results and progress or relentlessly driving them?

If you want to achieve a bold outcome or drive a new reality and change in 2019, don’t expect your desired outcomes to just happen, cause them to happen!

This statement may sound over simplistic, obvious and common sense to you. However, I cannot tell you how many times when I work with organizations even at the senior levels, where I see people frustrated because they did everything, they believe is needed in order to get the result and it still didn’t happen. Alternatively, they put in place the process, metrics, milestone and/or alerts to achieve the result and they have been tracking them on a frequent basis or they instructed their team members to achieve the result, and then they relied on the same result happening as in the past.

I am sure you have heard people say things like “We should be further along”, “The initiatives are not achieving big enough results”, “We are moving too slow”, and “We don’t see a change in behavior yet”.

If you mapped out the trend of any significant achievement or initiative, more often than not it would look like a horizontal hockey stick. If you have been around, you know that things often do not go the way we planned them.

Sometimes what we wanted, but didn’t expect, happens. At other times, what we were sure would happen didn’t.

With any meaningful achievement first, you need to invest a lot of effort and energy at first without seeing a lot of return and progress. By the way, I said, “without seeing a lot of return and progress…” I didn’t say “without any return and progress actually happening…” A lot is happening, we just can’t see it until things begin to take off.

Expecting progress, change and results is the wrong approach. You have to drive and cause them!

Just like you wouldn’t dig out a flower seed every week after you planted it to see if it is making progress, you can’t second-guess yourself, your direction or your team.

In fact, if you want to succeed in any significant undertaking you have to manage your expectations and have the mindset that your job is not to “see if it will work” but rather to “ensure and prove that it will work”.

It seems that leaders who don’t stay the course when they want to achieve a bold result, always tend to justify their failure with excuses and blame. I often hear them explain their failure with excuses like: “There was too much going on“, “The change initiative interfered with our core business or results“, and “People stopped being on-board“. The quitters worry more about their own personal brand and image and how they will be perceived. They tend to want to cover their behind.

In contrast, leaders who stay the course tend to always look inward at the source of what is working and not working – especially what isn’t working. They don’t care about blame or fault. They only care about how to make sure the promise of the new future will stay alive and be realized.

When things go well, they become nervous and shake people up in order to avoid complacency or arrogance. When things don’t go well, they rally their teams and engage in questions such as – “What are we doing or not doing that is causing this?” and “What could we do differently?”

So, in order to achieve great things in 2019, give up blaming others and circumstances for what isn’t working, and instead take 100% ownership and responsibility to get it done, even if it is challenging.

Make 2019 the best year ever!

I love new beginnings. Starting a new year, chapter or phase brings with it new possibilities and hope.

Whether you want to improve your financial situation, increase your health or fitness, find true love or find your dream job, at the start of a new cycle we often feel that we have another chance to realize our goals—including those we tried but didn’t achieve before. I find this space of possibility and opportunity extremely empowering and exciting.

However, in order to truly experience a fresh start, you have to first understand and accept the fact that new possibilities and hope exist in your own heart and mind, not in the real world. In fact, your ability to realize a fresh start depends on how you think and speak. The only person who can give you a fresh start and a new beginning is you.

For example, I have a friend who has had his share of challenging circumstances. Every time I ask him how he is doing he says something to the effect of “Same day, different shit!“. Pretty much every time I talk with my friend about new possibilities and try to help him change his predicament, he is quick to push back and explain to me how things just can’t be different given his circumstances. I haven’t given up on him yet, but I am definitely less inclined to engage in these conversations any longer.

I often encounter people who say they are open-minded but when others try to enroll them in new possibilities, they are quick to push back and provide all the reasons for why these new ideas won’t work. When I point this out, they explain that their point of view is simply pragmatic and realistic. But most people around them experience them as skeptical, cynical, closed-minded or often simply negative.

Sometimes in order to create a fresh start you need to let go of old perceptions about yourself, the world, and/or people around you – especially the perceptions that have constrained your ability to improve yourself and your circumstances. Sometimes you need to forgive others or even harder – yourself – for past mistakes, shortfalls and disappointments that you are still holding on to, or holding a grudge about. And, sometimes you simply need to change your point of view, interpretation or conclusion about past events from disempowering to empowering.

And, if you are thinking to yourself: “I am open-minded, but I can’t see where I could improve” my advice to you is – ask someone who knows you well, loves you and who will tell you the truth to give you feedback. Listen to them and receive their input with openness.

In order to create 2019 as a great year, start by explicitly and boldly declaring what you want to, and what you will achieve in the new year. The notion of striving and working toward a future state that you are looking forward to and are excited about today is a very empowering platform.

Use whatever framework works best for you to capture your objectives. Here is one option that you may find helpful. Use the following questions as steps to create your 2019:

  • What are the key areas of my life that I would like to move forward in 2019? By areas I mean life categories that would help you organize your thoughts. Potential areas could include Finances, Career, Job, Health, Family, and Love etc.
  • In each of the key areas – what are the specific objectives I will achieve? In each area, you will most likely have a few objectives. For examples your objectives could look like: (1) Double my income, (2) Find true love, (3) Deepen my intimacy with my family, and (4) Get healthy and fit.
  • In each objective – what are the specific projects I will take on to fulfill my objective? For some objectives, there could be one project. For others, the objective will become the project. However, for the more complex objectives, you may need a few parallel projects. For example: If you have a commitment to get healthy and fit, you may have a few projects: (1) Register to the gym and go 3 times each week, (2) see a nutritionist and start eating based on a health plan, and (3) Get rid of all my old clothes and buy new ones. Make sure the projects have clear end results, milestones, and execution plan.

After you have mapped these three levels of areas, objectives and projects summarize all your actions for the next 90, 60 and 30 days and make sure you review them every week or two.

New Year’s Resolutions have a bad reputation mainly because we say them out loud, but we don’t follow up and follow through on them. If you want 2019 to be different, share your objectives and projects with one or more of your closest friends, family members, and/or professional associates and ask them to hold you to account for your 90, 60 and 30-day action plan. Schedule follow-up conversations with them to review progress and adhere to these, even if you are behind.

You have a choice whether to make 2019 the best year ever or merely another year filled with compromised desires and cynical explanations.

I wish for all of us that 2019 will be our best year ever!


Complete 2018 in a meaningful way

Completing a chapter effectively can be a meaningful and powerful endeavor if you approach it with a deliberate and conscious mindset. Unfortunately, most people tend to focus more on starting a project and executing it, and when it reaches its end, they just move to the next one. We tend to underestimate the power and value of completing things effectively, not merely finishing or ending them.

The dictionary defines ‘Finishing‘ as ‘Bringing a task or activity to an end. It defines ‘Completing‘ as ‘Making something whole or perfect’.

You don’t have to do anything for something to end. It is the nature of any cycle. Things begin, go through their evolution and end. A year, a project or a lifetime, it’s all the same principle. But, in order to feel complete at the end of your year, with all the good things and bad things that happened, you need to apply deliberate and mindful focus and awareness.

How do you complete things?

If you review the year’s events without the distinction of completion in mind, you are likely to focus on the cold facts of what actually happened. You will ask yourself questions such as: “What did I do?”, “What didn’t I do?” and “What results did I achieve?”. Most likely your sense of satisfaction would be determined by the number of outcomes you achieved. If you achieved most of your goals, you would most likely feel good. If not, you would feel bad.

In contrast, if you look at 2018 through the lens of completion you will push your thinking and reflection beyond merely the facts of what happened to a deeper level. You will still account for the facts of what happened, however, you will be compelled to own what happened and what didn’t happen in a more meaningful way.

You will ask yourself questions such as “What did I accomplish?”, “What did I learn?”, “Where and how did I grow?” and “How am I better, stronger and more prepared for the future?”. This type of taking stock will deepen your connection with your higher purpose and vision and it will make you feel more satisfied and complete.

Your experience of success and failure are based on interpretations, not facts. You can feel victorious and successful even when you didn’t meet your goals. And, you can feel disappointed and unfulfilled when you did meet your goals. The feeling of success or failure is often determined by the notion of completion.

Completing the past and feeling that you have learned and gained the most out of it will enable you to put things in a more powerful perspective. It will help you put the past behind you, and this will leave you feeling freer, stronger and more empowered and excited to focus on the future from a clean slate.

However, if you leave things incomplete, past incompletions could haunt you and cloud your thoughts, plans, and aspirations for the future. You could become more hesitant to take on new things because of past failures and/or you could take on things with a sense of vengeance and need to prove something, which could rob you of enjoying the journey. In both cases, you would be reacting to your past and that won’t be effective or satisfying.

The good news is that you can bring completion to your past at any moment, no matter how good or bad things were. You just need to take stock, draw empowering conclusions from past events and then declare the past complete. It requires taking a stand and it takes courage. But it is easy and fun!

How to complete 2018 in a practical and meaningful way:

As you end 2018, reflect on your year. First, make the list of the facts – what happened, what you did and didn’t do and accomplish. It’s useful to start there. But don’t end there.

Ask yourself:

  1. What did I accomplish?
  2. What did I learn?
  3. Where and how did I grow and improve in the areas I care about?
  4. How did I forward my bigger personal and professional vision and purpose?
  5. What am I most grateful for?
  6. Whom do I want to recognize and thank? (Make sure you tell them.)

Once you declare 2018 complete, you will feel a sense of satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment. In that space, you can powerfully start creating your next year to be your best year ever.

In conclusion, on a personal note  – Thank you for following my blogs during 2018. I hope at least some of them were useful to you. I will be taking some time off myself and will post my next blog in the week of January 7th, 2019.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday Season and Happy New Year!


Are you addicted to your smartphone?

I spent a few days on the beach in Miami with my wife, and I couldn’t help but be shocked by people’s behavior with their smartphones.

My day started early at the gym with a small handful of exercisers. Even at 7am many of the exercisers were glued to their smartphones for the entire duration of their exercise. People were walking on the treadmill and cycling on the bike while being completely immersed in their smartphone for 90 minutes, without lifting their eyes from it.

At breakfast I saw a few couples and families sitting around the table, everyone with eyes glued to their smartphone as they were eating, with an occasional brief exchange of looks and words.

And, then at the beach, so many people sitting in their beach chairs glued to their smartphones for hours at a time. I even saw a few people walking on the beach holding their smartphones in front of their eyes literally walking and typing. I’m not sure how they managed to watch where they were going.

And then again at the restaurant over dinner, same behaviors.

I don’t know what the official statistics are of daily smartphone usage, but assume it is very high. In fact, I would bet some people spend 60-70 percent of their day glued to their smartphones. And, to be clear, the people I saw were not all teenagers or young adults. Some were clearly in their 40s, 50s, and 60s.

This is our modern, enlightened society.

If modern, enlightened means not being able to put your smartphone down and control your usage, not being able to make eye contact and/or converse with your loved ones, and/or not being able to simply be present in the moment in order to ‘stop and smell the roses’ – then, count me out!

Please don’t get me wrong, I love technology; I depend on it; I can’t imagine being without my computer or my phone for even one day. My entire life is entangled in technology – my personal and business calendars, my food and exercise apps, my immediate and extended family WhatsApp groups, my personal and business contacts, my emails, texts and more…

However, I don’t want to be so consumed by my technology that I am unable to function without constantly glancing at my smartphone. I don’t want to be impatient and anxious to receive the next message; I don’t want to worry that if I go off the grid for an hour or two, I may miss something. I want my technology to be my tool, resource and support mechanism, not my addiction. I want to control my impulses, I don’t want my impulses to control me.

Call me old fashion, but when my kids come over and we spend time together I want us to just be with each other and catch up, without smartphones. The same with my friends. I want to have quality time with my wife without either of us thinking about or looking at our smartphone. I want to exercise and do yoga without being concerned about missing out on something at work while I am nurturing my body and soul.

My wife often challenges me to eat my salad without dressing and to try other foods without sauce or gravy, in order to remember the taste of vegetables, grains, and meats in their natural and pure form. To be honest, I don’t love doing that because I have become used to the taste of meat with honey mustard or fish with Hollandaise.

However, when it comes to my connection and quality time with my wife, kids and loved ones I will do my best to keep our relationships as natural and pure as possible.


Shift the conversations and the results will follow

I can’t say enough about the power of words and conversations. Changing certain conversations can change the course of your direction and results for the better or worse.

People say that “Talk is cheap“. That is not true! Talk is very powerful, but we tend to make talk ‘cheap’ by speaking in ways that either don’t make any difference or that undermine what is important to us.

For example: If a commitment we have or a project we are working on isn’t going well, complaining about it, or blaming others for why it isn’t working won’t make a difference and won’t change anything. In fact, it would most likely make things worse. Blaming others may be based on a legitimate reason, but apart from making them wrong and making you right, it won’t change the outcome.

Alternatively, feeling bad or ‘guilty’, or beating yourself up and blaming yourself is the opposite side of exactly the same thing – undermining and doesn’t make a difference.

People also say:

Actions speaks louder than words

Well, that is not true either. Words are action and action depends on words to make it most effective and impactful.

For example: If a Rabbi or Priest pronounces you and your spouse “Man and wife” your life just changed. If a judge declares you “Innocent” or “Guilty” that will affect your world. And, if the president of your country declares war against another country, that will affect your life too. Words are very powerful. They shape and alter the course of our life.

Alternatively, if you take an action with the intention of helping someone, but that someone doesn’t interpret your action consistent with how you intended, most likely you will create upset or other negative effects. The road to failure and disappointment is often rife with good intent. Or as we sometimes refer to it: “Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons”.

The power of words and conversations manifests in organizations every day. If you go to any organization and you pay attention, you would hear, see and sense it. In some organizations the conversations circle around victim conversations. People whine a lot, complain, blame and make excuses a lot. In other organizations, there is zero tolerance for excuses and blame. Instead, the conversations orient around commitment. People don’t care about who’s fault it is. They only focus on conversations that make a difference like: requesting, promising and declaring commitments. These two sets of conversations are drastically different and you can clearly hear them in both the formal and informal conversations in any organization, and see them in people’s actions and behaviors.

I have worked with organizations that were dealing with very challenging market conditions. When I came in to help them people were complaining about their circumstances, making excuses and blaming other functions in their organization for their struggling performance. When we shifted the internal conversations and rhetoric from “excuses, justifications, and complaints” to “declarations, requests, and promises”; from “cynicism and resignation conversations” to “holding each other to account and highlighting successes“, their performance and results started to shift too.

I have also seen organizations that had very strong market conditions. They tried to launch new initiatives and ideas, but because their internal conversations stayed cynical, complacent and circumstantial they didn’t succeed, they didn’t stay the course and they couldn’t leverage the tailwind they had to achieve the growth they wanted. Instead of taking responsibility for their behaviors and failures they continued to blame the market and their competitors, and they stayed stuck.

The moral of the story is:

Words and conversations are powerful actions – if you shift the conversations and rhetoric in your team, your behaviors and results will follow.

However, actions without conversations are not as powerful – if you keep doing more of what you have done, and even try new things, but you don’t shift the conversations to be more commitment, ownership, and action-oriented, your results most likely won’t shift much either.

The power is in the conversations, which is good news, as it is not that hard to shift conversations. Focus on shifting your team’s conversations to be consistent with the type of dynamics, behaviors, and results you want, and see what happens.


Don’t forget to count your blessings!

This week, Americans are celebrating their Thanksgiving holiday. I am not an American, however, I love Thanksgiving and the opportunity it gives us to formally ‘give thanks’. We don’t count our blessings nearly enough and we definitely don’t express gratitude to the people we respect and love enough. We all could do a better job with this, no matter what country we live in.

There is a quote from Swindoll that I like that says:

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.”

On a daily basis, we deal with circumstances and situations that give us the opportunity to choose our outlook, mood, and course of action. Sometimes we relate to our circumstances as a misfortunate, and, as a result, we feel disappointed or discouraged. At other times, we relate to what life dealt us as fortunate and therefore we feel victorious and energized.

When we view the glass as half empty, this perspective pulls us down. It colors our experience of everything. Have you ever noticed that when you are upset about one thing, you tend to see other things as not working, too? Alternatively, you only focus on the bad things and ignore the great things?

However, when we focus on the glass being half full, this perspective uplifts, empowers and energizes us. We see all the good things and opportunities around us. Have you ever noticed that when you feel great about something that is important to you, you tend to have much more tolerance and acceptance of the things that are not going well?

We are often so consumed by, and reactive to the minutia of our daily life that we forget that we really have a choice about how we view, relate and react to things around us.

The reason I love Thanksgiving so much is that this holiday is a time formally designated for seeing the ‘half full view’ and the positive things around us; a time to be grateful and thankful, and a time to express our love and gratitude.

Most of us spend too much of our days being negative and cynical about things.

The world would be a better place if more people expressed more appreciation and gratitude more often.

Regardless of where you live, I wish you an authentic and meaningful Thanksgiving holiday! May you use this holiday as an “excuse” to give thanks to everything and everyone in your life that you appreciate, love and respect.

Don’t be lazy, don’t be stingy and don’t take any of it for granted.


Don’t underestimate the power of intention

I know too many people who don’t have the reality they want personally and/or professionally and they constantly complain about it, blame others or the circumstances for it and overall give excuses for it.

In fact, when I asked one of them the question “How are you doing?” their response was: “Same shit different day!” I have heard different variations on that theme from others…

Contrast that with a real-life story (no names) with two chapters:

Chapter One:

A sales team that was struggling with making their sales targeted numbers for a long time wanted a break. They had enough of wallowing in their sorrows. They wanted a breakthrough; they wanted to start winning and move from a survival mode to a thriving and abundant mode. So, to make a long story short, they had a “come to Jesus” meeting in which they all committed to a future (with specific details) that included making or exceeding their goals every quarter with more and bigger deals. They acknowledged that they had fallen into a “victim mentality” and they committed to stop complaining, blaming and justifying. This commitment was a big deal for them! The first quarter they came close, the second they made it and by the third quarter, they exceeded their results.

Needless to say, everyone was elated. However, with their new success came a lot more work and the new work was much more intense and demanding then they had been used to.

Chapter Two:

After two very successful quarters of record sales results, people were feeling the strains of the long hours and hard work. They had to hire many more people to accommodate their growth, but that was taking longer than everyone had hoped so the brunt of the hard work fell on fewer people.

Everyone felt the stress of over the lack of work/life balance. Even the people who were around before the success had forgotten where they came from.

When you walked the halls of this team you started to hear disgruntled team members engaging in negative conversations again – complaining, blaming and justifying their frustrations. Unfortunately, with time the negativity only increased and with it ownership, dedication and quality deteriorated.

When the team lost its first customer everyone brushed it off and attributed it to the circumstances. However, when their downward trend repeated itself and they had multiple issues with other deals and customers, which lead to them missing their sales results again, it was too late to turn things around.

Commitment and Intention are so powerful. You can understand this phrase, but if you don’t “get it”, trust it, apply it and live it this won’t make a difference.

The punch line is:

If you are dealing with a bad situation or reality and you complain about it you will most likely continue to have that bad reality. I am sure you would agree…

If you are dealing with a bad situation or reality and you commit to changing it, and then you start speaking and acting consistent with your new commitment, it will only be a matter of time – “when”, not “if” – you will turn your predicament around.

However, if you succeed in turning your bad predicament around and you go back to complaining about what you got, or what is not working, it will only be a matter of time – “when”, not “if” – you will lose what you created and return back to your old state…

Even if you don’t understand how intention works or if you don’t believe that intention works – it still does!

You can either embrace the concept and figure out how to use it to your advantage, or you can reject and dismiss it and then you will lose the competitive advantage and power that this powerful principle could give you.

Do not be afraid of the roller coaster of taking a stand

Taking a stand is like putting on a fresh pair of glasses. You start seeing things more clearly.

I was working with the middle managers of a global technology-based company. This group was suffering from a lack of internal cohesion and trust, plus communication issues between its members. These negative dynamics had been going on for so long that it was hard for the managers to tell if their trust issues were coming from personal relationship issues or from the fact that businesses and functions were simply not working together cohesively and effectively. However, one thing was clear to the managers – that their issues were hurting productivity, business results and morale in their wider organization.

In our meeting, the managers decided to tackle their problem head-on. They had an honest conversation in which they took stock of their issues and frustrations. They talked about the type of peer and functional dynamic they wanted to have in the future, and at the end of the day, they took a bold stand to make a significant improvement in their trust, cohesion and communication dynamics. Everyone left the meeting feeling good and committed to drive the change they wanted.

When we met again 60 days later to follow up and continue the process people were somewhat deflated and resigned. When I asked why they stated that since our last meeting things actually got worse, rather than better.

When we probed deeper we discovered – and they all acknowledged this – that things didn’t, in fact, get worse, in fact, they got a little better, However, because their level of tolerance and patience for the issues became much lower, their issues felt more painful.

This is a typical dynamic when you take a stand!

When you have tolerated a state of dysfunctionality in an area that you care about for a long time you tend to become cynical and resigned about change. If you experience an “Aha moment!”, or an epiphany, or a paradigm shift you will start seeing things differently. As a result, you will become excited and hopeful about the change you want. It’s like having an awakening from a state of numbness. However, with the awakening comes a renewed sense of responsibility and ownership, which will inevitably make you less tolerant to dysfunctionality.

The more you understand this dynamic the more effective you will be at navigating through it without invalidating your stand, the change you want or your journey to get there.

So, how do you push on and materialize the changes that you took a stand for?

By speaking, behaving and acting consistently with your change.

What does this mean?

Speaking differently:

When you take a stand to create a better future state, the way you speak about it will have a big impact on your ability to realize it. In a different company, I was attending a meeting where team members were reviewing a bold project they took on to improve their operational processes and efficiency. Throughout the presentation, the project manager kept making undermining comments about the project, such as: “This project is so challenging and hard…” and “We are doing our best, but not sure we can make it…” He kept referring to his future as “If we make it…” versus “When we make it…” He may have thought that these comments were charming, but I wanted to scream: “Why do you keep second-guessing your commitment?!”, “Why are you conveying such an undermining perspective about your future?!”,”Stop speaking like that!”.

Let’s be real – there are no guarantees that you will succeed in realizing any commitment or stand. In addition, you should not be inauthentic or lie about challenges and difficulties. However, there is always an empowering authentic way to account for the challenges and still speak powerfully about the future you have taken a stand about.

Acting and behaving differently:

Once you take a stand for a better future, put yourself in that future state and use that future state as the reference for defining your actions and behaviors. Ask yourself, looking from the future backward toward today, “What actions and behaviors should I start, stop or do differently?”.

Don’t guess or speculate. Let the future guide you in determining what new behaviors you should adopt and practice.

Make a list of these actions and behaviors, especially the new things and then do what you know is needed. Actually, start doing things differently and stop things that don’t support your new future.

Starting, stopping and changing actions and behaviors is often not easy. Old habits tend to pull you right back toward them. However, the more you make your promised changes public the more you will close any possibility of hiding or retreating. Make sure you build the support structure of committed people around you who will remind you, hold you to account and not buy into your excuses if/when you renege on the behavior changes you have committed to.

By understanding what you should expect when taking a stand, you will increase your possibilities, choices and power to create a desired future that is greater than what is going to happen anyways.


If you want your people to live the values, live them yourself!

Every modern organization has cultural values that outline the type of culture and behaviors the CEO and his or her senior executives want to drive in their organization.

The CEO and senior team are typically the ones who stand on the stage and share the values. Most CEOs only mention the values a few times a year in the formal company-wide events. In many cases, this happens because their human resource leader or communications manager adds it in their presentation deck.

Some CEOs really care about the values. They see them as their personal endeavor; perhaps the legacy they want to leave behind them. These CEOs find any opportunity to mention, repeat and reference the values in day-to-day business conversations; when they criticize, coach or discipline their people, as well as when they recognize and praise them.

Everyone in the company knows where their CEO and his or her senior team stand regarding the values. They know if the values are merely another corporate slogan the senior team pays lip service to, or if the CEO and his/her team take them personally and they are sincerely passionate about them and committed to driving them. It’s easy to tell by watching actions, not words.

I was working with a CEO who was very passionate about the values of his company. Everywhere he went in the company, in all meetings and calls he would bring up the values in some relevant business context. When a product didn’t meet the deadline of being released to the market and he found out that the teams that were supposed to collaborate in order to get it done didn’t do a good job, he made a big stink about people not living the collaboration value. When his leaders would come to him to complain about other leaders he would coach them in the context of living the value of ownership. And, when the sales team overcame big challenges and achieved a great outcome at the end of the quarter he went out of his way to show everyone how it was because people were living the ‘we get it done‘ value.

Everyone knew that the values were the CEO personal pet peeve. People respected it, but more importantly, everyone felt compelled to get on board with the CEO and make the values the company’s norm. They were very successful at it.

Unfortunately, in so many companies the CEO and his or her team are the biggest offenders of living the values.

To state the obvious, if the values are Teamwork and Ownership and everyone can see that the senior leaders are highly political and siloed people will roll his or her eyes at the values. If the values are Candor and Transparency and people are afraid to give the senior leaders feedback and bad news because they won’t take it well, people will be cynical about the values.

Judging by their behavior, it seems that many executives think that they can drive the values by standing on a stage once or twice a year and saying all the fancy slogans with gusto and then going back to their day-to-day lives with minimal attention to the values until the next big fanfare. Nothing is further from the truth!

If the CEO wants to create a new culture based on values such as: Collaboration, Personal Responsibility, Excellence, Innovation and Care, he or she has to:

  1. Make these values a priority as high as achieving the revenues or profitability numbers of the company.
  2. Put in place the same robust programs, routines, incentives and practices to continuously promote, foster, reward, nurture and sustain the desired behaviors.
  3. Establish the same level of inspection touch-points to ensure clear changes and improvements are being made.

Making the values a part of the culture is an ongoing process and journey, not an event. It takes dedication and work. It definitely won’t be achieved by reciting slogans!

To the CEO and his or her senior leaders I would offer the following advice:

If you want your people to live the values, live them yourselves!


How to sustain your excitement with the change you want?

Have you ever attended a really powerful and great strategic planning meeting at work where at the end of the meeting you felt truly excited, inspired and hopeful about the new future direction? But then you returned back to your day-to-day work environment and it wasn’t long before the routine, workload, churn and perhaps cynicism around you set back in and you lost that sense of optimism and excitement that you had in that meeting?

So how do you sustain your excitement toward a new direction or the change you want to bring about?

Here are a few practical suggestions:

  1. Speak to as many people as you can about it. The more people you will inform and engage in the new future the bigger the conversation you are creating around you about the future. The more participants and “partners” you have in the new direction the easier it will be for you to stay focused and excited about it.
  2. Reference the new direction or strategy in every conversation or meeting. If you believe in the future and you find it relevant, the best way to keep it alive is to keep bringing it up. Keep it real! The more you reference the new direction and strategy the more real you will make it for yourself and others.
  3. Look for opportunities to declare and reaffirm your commitment to the new direction or strategy. The more you speak to people about the new direction and declare your commitment and stand, the more your commitment will empower and energize you back.
  4. Establish clear and effective action plans to achieve and drive your new direction and strategy. Your declarations will strengthen your sense of purpose, your energy and your mental resolve. Clear plans will compel you and others into action. Declarations without action plans tend to feel hollow and they tend to die off. Action plans without clear purpose and context quickly turn into uninspiring busywork. The combination of both purpose and action is very powerful.
  5. Acknowledge, recognize and praise others who stand for, reference and live up to the new direction and future. Basic leadership is to lead by example. A higher level of leadership is to promote others to do the same. A powerful way to do that is to acknowledge, recognize and praise leadership and future-based behavior in others. This practice will also, come back to empower and energize you too.

Declaring your commitment and what you stand for provides you the opportunity to express yourself, be courageous and authentic. Doing these will most definitely empower and energize you.

We are often consumed in our day-to-day by the same concerns, worries and anxieties that come from our past. By focusing on, promoting and staking yourself to the new future direction and strategy you are shifting your orientation and reference point from the past to the future. That shift is real and it will elevate your energy and excitement.

Most people are most happy, energized and alive when they are true to themselves authentic, courageous and self-expressed.

I hope you can you find all these on my list.