Archive for Conflict

What you tolerate, you propagate!

Shocked Behavour

They did what??

Much has been said in magazines, articles, blogs, and on social media regarding Silicon Valley’s recent gender issues. With the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and the recent resignation of Silicon Valley investor Dave McClure from 500 Startups, we believe there are ways to stop your company from moving down the same path.

The two good-old-boys above resigned because of a media storm that occurred when they were ‘found out’ not because the behaviour was dealt with internally. Only after large public descriptions of their activities hit the media were their respective organizations compelled to take action. We are proud of the women who have taken a stand to highlight the issues, yet the internal workings of the companies continued to display long-held misogyny and hubris that went mostly unchecked regardless of the fact they knew it was happening.

We have some advice for organizations who are worried about ensuring more equanimity between the genders and who are trying to figure out how to salvage their own organization before they, too, become headline news. We’ll start with the title of this post, a saying we repeat in all of our transformation work.

What you tolerate, you propagate

This means that every time you let even one individual get away with illicit, illegal, immoral, harassing, bullying, or unethical behaviour, you are saying you “tolerate” that behaviour. If your organization tolerates it once, then it will tolerate it again, and in-action on these issues is what truly creates your culture. When it is tolerated by the senior leadership, well, you have just paved the road to a slow but sure demise.

If a company wishes to change its culture, it must first make a clear decision on what they are willing to tolerate, then be very transparent about the consequences for what they will NOT tolerate. Here are a few thoughts about transforming a culture and standing firm on gender issues, bullying, sexual harassment, poor conduct, or other ‘bad person’ issues that companies will face from time-to-time.

“We are….”

Decide who you are as an organization by creating your “we are…” statements, here are a few examples:

  1. We are an equal opportunity culture that champions equality and diversity.
  2. We are a culture of respect in the workplace and we believe in honest and transparent business conduct.
  3. We are a culture that champions merit and compensates hard work of all individuals.

“We Do Not Tolerate”

Identify the type of behaviour you wish to curb by being very transparent about what you will not tolerate, here are a few examples:

  1. Harassment in any form will not be tolerated. (Then give clear examples of what harassment looks like)
  2. We do not tolerate the undermining of individual merit based on race, color, ethnic, cultural, community or national origin, religion, sexual orientation/identity, family or marital status, gender, disability or age.
  3. We do not tolerate illicit, illegal, immoral, unethical business conduct. (Then give a few clear examples)


It is important to have processes and guidelines in place for how your organization will apply consequences for the actions and behaviours you say you will NOT tolerate. The processes must be in line with your State or Provincial Labour Standards, and they must be followed fairly, no matter who the individual is who ‘crossed’ the line.

Once you are familiar and clearly understand the legal State or Provincial standards and how to meet them, then you must define the manner in which your organization will roll out those standards in addressing the actions you wish to change.


Employees WANT to trust the company they work for. If for any reason one or two people in the organization are let to get away with behaviour not tolerated of others, you will have created a significant trust issue. Employees want to know they have somewhere they can go and still be protected from retribution if they report wrong-doing. Sadly, many organizations tend to sweep poor conduct and behaviour under the rug rather than deal with it head-on. This puts the whole company at risk, and that company can wind up in the same situation as Uber or 500 Startups.

The Good News

There are many companies who follow good practices with regard to respect in the workplace. Activities that have been transforming for some of the ones we have worked with are below:

  • They have mandatory training on their “Respect in the Workplace” program.
  • They follow the same process and subsequent consequences for investigating complaints regardless of the title or status of the individuals involved.
  • Managers are provided information to better understand what harassment, inequality, or disrespect look like.
  • They put an investigator in charge who is neutral to the individuals involved, some use an outside service.
  • They provide employees with an anonymous “whistle-blower” process or tool that protects complainants.
  • They are clear and transparent throughout the organization on what are and are not tolerated behaviours and actions.

Great companies can and do exist, with some of the tips above, we simply need to follow their lead and begin shaping the culture we really want, not the one that has simply evolved because we were too uncomfortable to deal with the issues.

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Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.




So, What Say You?

AwkwardHave you ever shared something out loud and it came out in such a way that you offended someone, but were not aware of the horrible impact you had? I have, and it was not until I began noticing that I was being “put in my place” over and over again, or when word began filtering back to me that it had been discussed by others.

Sadly, what was said was never meant to come off as condescending or rude, but the judgement stuck. Before someone made an effort to get to know me, to learn about my heart, before anyone even tried to cull from me the actual meaning of what I was trying to convey, the words were judged, shared, and shared again.

In the end I was made to feel ostracized and ignored. No amount of good-effort on my part will likely change the opinion I had given them with two poorly worded sentences. They will never know how much I admire their talents, their contributions to their work or how much I wish to learn from them.

The personal brand had been set, the path drawn and the relationship skewed.

My fault for not choosing my words more consciously, for allowing some things going on in my personal life to cloud my ability to say what I really meant, and for uttering sentences that poorly described what I was trying to convey.

Yes. Lesson learned, think first, and speak later.

But I have to wonder what makes us so afraid to say;

“Are you aware how what you just said made me feel? That I felt lessened by those words?”

Oh how different things might have been! How easily I could have been given an opportunity to right the sentences, to utter what I really meant. What a lovely opportunity I would have been given to build a relationship rather than be branded.

Our words matter – mine did and I must live with that. But actions matter too.

Dealing with ‘difficult people’ is never easy, but it is swiftly accomplished if you are first willing to approach the ‘difficult’ person directly.

Leadership lessons for me:

  1. What I say and how I say it matters, always.
  2. Try to address the person making uncomfortable statements first.

All of us are both easy to get along with or difficult to get along with, depending on the audience, what one is going through, or the environment in which they find themselves.

Have you ever wished you could take back words that were conveyed in a way you never meant to convey them?


A New Manager’s Guide to Honesty

LeadingFirst, a short story.

Not long ago, a team we are familiar with described their experience with a difficult manager. The frustration level was such that the core team were ready to quit.

Their issue? A lying Manager.

The team was weary, distrustful, often cranky and angry at each other, and they were beginning to unravel thread-by-thread. It was easily traced to the manner in which the manager had been handling the team.

Sadly, the issues they had went on for a number of years:

  • They were all privately told different versions of what was going on in the team.
  • The manager made promises to all of them, separately, but did not always back it up or follow it through.
  • The manager continually deflected accountability for actions by pointing in any direction but his own, including pointing up the chain or at other team members.
  • Many of the stories pitted members of the team against one another.
  • The manager promised roles to team members when that role already belonged to other team members, without using professional due process.

In addition to lying, the key ingredients to frustration were the manager’s inability to take ownership or accountability for most actions, especially anything the employees disliked or when they challenged his lack of willingness to be open about future planning.

The thing about lying is, as mentioned in a previous post Liars get caught, period, the lies are almost always found out, eventually. When a manager lies to his team, he destroys trust. Avoiding difficult situations, or conflict altogether, are as good as lying and continues to diminish trust within a team.

Ways to be an honest Manager, especially through change

Hold yourself accountable and take responsibility for moving the team forward. The manager who falls into the habit of blaming their bosses for decisions made loses the team and creates an ‘Us against Them’ environment. This can be avoided by one of the foundational principles of management, keeping the team unified and in alignment with the company strategy.

  • Take ownership of the decisions which are out of your control and made at a higher level.
  • Champion these decisions as your own and encourage your team to do the same.
  • Recognize when you are powerless to change the decision and move on professionally, even if you disagree (keep it to yourself) as you are the ambassador for the people who lead you.

Build the functional capability of the team as a team. Many a manager believes that once given the title they are empowered to make all the decisions and the team must simply follow it through. While that may be true in terms of power and authority, by disrespecting your team members’ valuable knowledge and ignoring group decision making, a manager may be putting the team, and ultimately the company, at risk.

  • Make meetings productive by listening, not by trying to be the smartest person in the room. Ask a lot of questions and get answers from your experts, leverage the team ‘on the ground’ and utilize and respect their knowledge.
  • Mine solutions from the whole group then ask all in the room to question the validity and be the ‘friendly critic’ who can identify associated risks.
  • Keep ‘water cooler’ conversations away from planning and decision-making unless you are focused only on that team member’s performance.
  • Never make promises you cannot keep, the entire team will slowly begin to distrust your leadership.
  • Focus on the strengths of the whole team united, the importance of a team that works together and is not in conflict.

These are a just a few ideas for helping your build honesty and trust within your team. An honest, transparent and trustworthy manager is far more effective than a top-down, distrustful one. Leadership is not about you, it is about the team and what is best for the company. Open, honest transparency will be a far better guide through change and will serve you as a new leader in all walks of life.

What ideas can you share with new managers?


Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Question“We find … it’s much more important and difficult to ask the right question. Once you do that, the right answer becomes obvious.
~Amory Lovins

If you want to know more about why people do or don’t change, then ask more questions.

When working with organizations and teams, it is important to first listen and understand before building plans and developing programs for them. For organizations that do not have coaching as a mainstay offering for their leaders, they may be surprised to hear it is those coaching methodologies that open the door to understanding. For a large company, it is definitely worthwhile for key individuals and leaders within the organization to be coached, and for those in charge of organizational development (OD) to have some coaching training behind them.

There is a generalized stigma around coaching that can be hard to shake and it’s often referred to as that ‘airy-fairy’ soft-skills stuff. There is nothing soft about coaching!

If you remember being figuratively pinned to the wall as a teen in high school as some wise adult helped you learn to stand up and take responsibility for your own actions, you can easily recognize the value for coaching in any environment. Through great questions, a coach can dig deep enough to get to the root of why you choose your current thought patterns and reactions, helping you better understand where you fit among the dynamics of a multifaceted team of individuals. There is nothing soft about it. The secret to a coach’s success is the training they receive within two areas:

  • learning how to ask questions and
  • the right questions to ask.

This is why people in Change Management (CM) are also effective coaches. One who seeks to understand the stakeholders and the stakes involved in any change initiative is best served by first knowing the right questions to ask. Great questions return great results, further creating introspective reasoning for the individual who is providing the answers. The people being asked begin to think a little more about what they do and why they do it, eventually getting to the heart of why, within a change initiative, the stakes are so high for them.

This doesn’t mean the stakeholders are all in an ‘organized coaching program’, but rather, through a varied series of meetings, one-on-one discussions, facilitated group sessions and other forms of analysis and risk analysis, the CM professional is able to dig deep to the heart of any challenges that may inhibit change.

Change is inevitable, but change as a push mechanism is rarely successful. Change initiatives that take into consideration all stakeholders and build a plan for change that motivates and inspires people to move forward from resistance to desire find greater success. It is my experience that there is usually a lot more to resistance than what is initially shared, and a little coaching methodology can certainly loan itself to finding the greatest resistance and helping the people within an organization work through it.


patticroppedPatti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations to develop
Happy Workplaces world-wide guiding them toward mastery and leadership
through consulting, advising, coaching, speaking, and delivering training.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to book for Idea Sessions, Change Management, Executive Coaching or Team Development.

Idea Sessions | Change Management | Executive Coaching | Team Building



Liars Get Caught, Period.

liarIt may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but liars do get caught.

The thing about lies is that they are unsustainable. Eventually, someone begins to catch on, investigate, corroborate and vet the lies.

When a person tells enough of them, it is too hard for the liar to keep track of who/what was told.

The truth is always a ‘same story’ scenario – it is clean and you only have to remember the truth.

Lies get bent, twisted and confused until one can no longer remember what they have told, to whom they have told it, and eventually lies begin to unravel.

When a long series of lies begins to unravel, desperation sets in – and the lies get bigger to cover the other unraveling lies. It is a deep vortex from which one rarely recovers, especially if they have a high profile or are in a position of authority. (edit 2013: think Lance Armstrong)

Indication one is caught in a lie – they try to eliminate the power of the people who know the truth!

Very risky.

Cheating works the same way as lying…..cheating labels a leader. People quit being loyal to liars and cheaters, word gets out, and pretty soon liars and cheaters struggle to hire the quality people for the job. Liars tell stories to boost their own interests, and after a while they begin to believe no one sees through the stories. They are wrong.

Solution? Don’t do it.

Transparency and honesty are key pieces of the leadership puzzle. If you want your team to perform, remember that lying, cheating, and bullying will shut the performing parts of their brains down – not as many synapses in the brain will fire.

Honesty, engagement and giving credit to those who have worked for you, this opens up the performing parts of the brain – more synapses in the brain will fire. This equals great performance by your team. It is science. Pay attention.

Are you new to our blog? We'd love to have you stay, sign up for our newsletter HERE.


Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations in implementing sustainable change in a rapid changing world. Her key areas of focus are change management solutions both at the project level and the organizational level. She has over 10 years of experience in change management, has worked on projects that impact 50-30,000 people in both large and small organizations. Patti brings experiential design thinking into all her projects ensuring solutions are relevant, simplified and the implementation makes sense.

You can reach Patti at 1-855-968-5323

Contact us here to work with us.


Contact us here to book for Idea Sessions, Change Management, Executive Coaching or Team Development.


The Real Reason Your Team Doesn’t Trust You

Today’s guest post is by Mike Figliuolo, the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. Here’s Mike:


Your team doesn’t trust you. Honestly. They don’t.

Trust is key to effective working relationships; yet, as you climb the corporate ladder, trust seems harder to earn and easier to lose.

What causes a team to not trust their leader? You. Yes, you. You’re unpredictable and your team doesn’t know what to expect from you. But, these are fixable problems.

Trust is about an ability to rely upon or expect a predictable outcome. When you act in ways your team doesn’t expect, it erodes trust and makes them wonder what you’re going to do next. If you want to get a sense for how much your people trust you, you can take this Trusted Leader Assessment online – it only takes 3-5 minutes and you’ll get a comprehensive analysis of your results after taking it.

If you can clearly lay out how your people can expect you to behave in a variety of situations, they’ll have a basic expectation upon which to build a foundation of trust. These expectations have to be personal and meaningful enough to you that they guide your behavior. I refer to these guiding principles as “leadership maxims” which are rules of behavior or conduct. The collection of all your leadership maxims becomes your personal leadership philosophy.

Defining Your Leadership Philosophy

I encourage you as a leader to define your own set of leadership maxims. They can be as simple as one of mine which is “What would Nana say?” For reference, Nana was my grandmother. I can use that maxim to guide my behavior. When faced with difficult choices, I simply ask “what would Nana say?” and my choice becomes clear. When I explain this maxim to my team, they’ll better understand how I make choices and they’ll see my behavior as consistent with this maxim. It is this consistency that forms the basis of trust.

If you want to define a powerful leadership philosophy, here are a few steps to start with:

  • Be yourself. When you write your leadership philosophy, spare your team the corporate-speak and tell your personal story instead. They can spot a phony a mile away.
  • Give in to emotion. Articulate your leadership philosophy as a set of reminders of stories that have deep emotional meaning for you. The reminders are touchstones to guide your behavior. The stronger the emotions associated with the story, the more likely you are to change your behavior to be consistent with the lesson the story reminds you of.
  • Lead yourself. You have to know where you personally want to go in life and define your personal code of conduct before you can lead someone else. Write down reminders of your code as part of your philosophy.
  • Lead the thinking. Your job is to set direction, challenge outdated thinking, and define standards. Create reminders that force you to do these things on a regular basis – not only during the annual strategic planning process.
  • Lead your people. Get dirty. Know their jobs. Know them as individuals – not as a box on an org chart or a job title. When they know you care about them as a person, they’re much more willing to give you everything they’ve got.
  • Lead a balanced life. If you’re burned out, you’re worthless. Set your boundaries and stick to them. Let everyone else know what they are. Balance applies to your work too – have enough work you love to do to balance out all the mindless tasks you don’t enjoy. Again – create some simple yet personal guidelines that remind you make decisions that keep you in balance.
  • Pull it all together. Document all your reminders of how you want to behave on a single piece of paper. Tack it up on your wall or carry it on a card in your wallet. Having that simple reminder of your approach to leadership always within arm’s reach will help you live up to that standard every day.
  • Share. Tell people your personal story. Share your triumphs and failures. Help them understand the experiences that have made you who you are as a leader. When you share, you help them understand you better. That understanding and the vulnerability you demonstrate while sharing builds trust between you and your team members.

The Bottom Line

The sooner you commit your leadership philosophy to paper, the better off you are. Be sure it is personal, authentic, and free of jargon or buzzwords. Share it with your team. Live it every day. Help them see you’re really not that complex or unpredictable. Morale, productivity, and trust will all increase as a result. Take the Trusted Leader Assessment to see where you stack up. The results can make a big difference in helping you build trust with the members of your team.

Mike Figliuolo is the author of One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership. He’s the managing director of thoughtLEADERS, LLC – a leadership development firm. An Honor Graduate from West Point, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat arms officer. Before founding his own company, he was an assistant professor at Duke University, a consultant at McKinsey & Co., and an executive at Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He regularly writes about leadership on the thoughtLEADERS Blog.


Loss of a Distant Mentor

Sadness over the suicide of Trey Pennington on Sunday September 4, 2011.

I did not know Trey personally, only via our social media channels. He was one of those individuals to whom people looked up to, a mentor who knew the right way to say things, how to get his point across without arrogance and who was very real and inspirational, and a successful consultant. This was who Trey was to me, but I did not really ‘know’ him, his personal life or his family and friends; just the social media person who was down to earth, engaging, successful, well loved by many. I did not truly know him, but today I feel a loss.

It struck me how much we can hardly know someone and yet their impact, their message and their inspiration can still contribute significantly to the lives of many. My connection with Trey is via our twitter profiles, and I am left shocked and saddened by this loss of a man who was positive and committed to the success of others.

Based on what I have read and seen in my social media circles, Trey was well loved, he had many friends and I am among a large number of people who have been positively influenced by him. There were many times I would look at his profile or website and think of how much he embodied many of the business successes I would like to aspire to. Now, I am simply left saddened for him, for his family and friends, and for the many people he has inspired and mentored as they seek their own ways of saying good-bye to Trey.

I know of a few people who have committed suicide, and it is always a shock, because these folks have all been bright, talented, beautiful, well-loved people with an incredible future in front of them.

Today I ponder some of my own thoughts and emotions from this tragedy…

Show kindness. Recognize that people around us may be struggling with something we are completely unaware of. I implore you to please pay attention to the people around you, reach out, ask with great depth and sincerity how someone is, and be willing to really listen and be there for them.

Get help. If you are struggling and depressed, if you feel you cannot meet the expectations of the world around you or you feel you are letting down the people you love, please reach out. To a friend, to a doctor, to a crisis line, to someone you feel safe with – tell them you are struggling, ask for help. People want to help, especially when you feel you can no longer cope. You are loved and there is a better answer. Please give yourself the opportunity to release the pressure and confusion of depression by seeking help, not escape.

Those who appear most strong and together may need your support. Depression is treatable. Mental Health problems can happen to anyone, our children, our loved ones, our friends and even ourselves – the negative stigma of those suffering with depression must be lifted. We lose far too many amazing people when depression takes over the brain and clouds one’s ability to cope with life.

Today I am inspired to look at my life differently, to see the beauty in the little things, to appreciate my loved ones.

My prayers and thoughts go out to the family, friends, colleagues and people both inspired and mentored by Trey. He will be deeply missed.

Next Saturday, September 10, 2011 is World Suicide Prevention day. Here are some things you can do to create awareness. Share information about depression openly with your friends and loved ones, post the phone numbers where people can get help and mostly, reach out! Someone you know may be going through very tough personal issues of which they are burdened to the point of feeling they cannot cope or there is no reason to keep going. Reach out and listen, then direct them to help – here are some links you can use…



More about Suicide Prevention



Thriving Souls and Serial Victims

Serial Victims

image courtesy of Iwan Beijes, Netherlands

“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”

~C.R. Strahan

Observation in life has presented two significant types of victims to me…

Thriving Souls and Serial Victims

There are victims of many horrible situations, natural disasters, accidents, abuse, crime and violence. The difference between the two types above is what happens after an event that defines a person’s character and most likely their success in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there are difficult moments for everyone, no matter whom you are. Moments when it is important to release and when tears or grief are appropriate and justified. Everyone has times of pain, shock, horror, grief and sadness. It is when that shock, horror, grief or sadness turns into a life-long pattern of repetitive sympathy and blame that it becomes self destructive.

So what are the differences between a Thriving Soul and a Serial Victim?

Thriving Souls:

  • Rebuild, reinvent, move forward, learn and grow such as a child abused who moves on to show the world what success really looks like
  • Attend counseling long enough so that they find peace and resolve to let the event live in the past
  • Forgive and understand others with strength and courage like the mother who forgives the killer of her own son
  • Exhibit resilience and tenacity in creating their own life
  • Turn the experience into positive actions forward
  • Are accepting that life is a series of hits, misses and falls that accompany the beauty, growth and love life has to offer
  • Know there are no ‘special happy folks’ who are without problems
  • Know that moving forward is hard work
  • Understand moving forward does not mean running away
  • Take full responsibility for their own actions and success
  • See events through the eyes and vantage points of others
  • Accept life and choose to use their energy for productive purpose
  • Learn from, support others and create proactive ways of helping solve issues as in the example of the victim of a drunk driver whose mother also died as the result of a drunk driver and who now educates others on the impact
  • Recognize and see beauty and love in almost every event
  • Are creative masters of their own happiness using a positive approach to life

Serial Victims:

  • Find everyday life events difficult to deal with
  • Struggle with long-term relationships
  • Appear to suffer when they don’t get their own way (and make others suffer with them)
  • Relive the event in story form over and over with as many people as possible, bring their past into their present
  • Blame everyone else for all or most of their problems,( nothing is ever their fault)
  • Fly into tantrums or rage at neutral events which could easily be handled calmly
  • Invent what the intentions of others are – in order to hang onto a victim mentality
  • Seek sympathy or attention in an effort to get what they want
  • Tread water in self pity
  • Choose hatred or resentment in place of dealing with people or situations
  • Frequently run away from jobs, relationships and situations calling it “moving on” but always bringing their victim story with them
  • Live in a constant state of drama > blamed on others
  • Need to be ‘saved’ repeatedly from situations they get themselves into
  • See events only with their own interpretation refusing to hear or believe another viewpoint
  • Lack empathy for the feelings of others and can be more emotionally abusive than their alleged abusers
  • Believe people are out to get them, hurt them, cause them pain
  • Live in anger when forced to live with the consequences of their actions rather than change their own behaviour
  • Embellish events or mislead others with false facts or details
  • Will have their own idea of what forgiveness looks like and want to hold you to it (I recently read this post… Forgiveness: 7 Things It’s NOT! A great list for reference)

It is the Thriving Soul who teaches us how to live life. None of us are targets for miserable unless we choose to make it so and there is no happiness outside of the things we choose to be happy about ourselves.

Being a Thriving Soul is hard work

Being responsible for one’s own actions, (seeing events from the viewpoint of another, learning to grow and evolve and accept that life will be difficult) is not the easy path. But if life were easy, we would probably not have the amazing progress we have in medicine, human understanding and comfortable living. If not challenged, we would rarely reach or stretch or seek better, stronger or more beautiful solutions, we wouldn’t need to.

“You are responsible for your life. You can’t keep blaming somebody else for your dysfunction. Life is really about moving on.” ~Oprah Winfrey

I have made a choice to exclude serial victims from my life and learn from those Thriving Souls who know what love and life is all about. It is my hope that I choose that positive approach, that I do the hard work of expending my energy toward taking responsibility for my actions and choices; owning and creating my life and owning it when things go wrong.

Do you know a Thriving Soul or a Serial Victim?

Patti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations to develop Happy Workplaces world-wide guiding them toward mastery and leadership through advising, coaching, speaking, and delivering training.

You can contact Patti at 403-201-8512 | email her at | visit her speaking page at


Bullying in the Workplace – An Epidemic Worth Having A Discussion About

Strategic Sense, in addition to providing Leadership Training, has made a commitment to highlight some of the remarkable authors, leadership professionals and business people we’ve had the great fortune of meeting and working with over the last 3 years. On Wednesdays you will see guest-posts from some of these folks. All are leaders in their field and have solutions to some of our biggest workplace issues.

As with Professor Robin Stuart-Kotze PhD who wrote about Getting a Handle on Different Cultural Values today we have a guest post that talks about Bullying.


Today’s Guest Post is by Michelle Berg, President & CEO of Elevated HR Solutions in Calgary


Photo Courtesy of Rene Asmussen, Denmark

And now, here’s Michelle…

Tell me if you’ve witnessed this before: A manager thinks of himself as strong and effective. He continually brags about keeping his employees in line – they even have to ask to go to the bathroom. In terms of a work environment, he doesn’t allow for idle chit chat. His door of his office is open and if he hears anything that doesn’t appear to be work he stands up and makes a comment such as, “I hear McDonald’s has an opening. They like to chat.” Tasks are broken down for each individual into teeny tiny steps, so that each milestone can be checked and rechecked before continuing. When the employee gets it “wrong”, the manager criticizes harshly to ensure that the employee gets what he/she did wrong and to never repeat the mistake twice. When someone asks to take time off for vacation, his reply is always, “Must be a nice life. I guess you expect me to pick up all your slack for you.”

Do you know this guy? Chances are, you probably do. In my case, this is a true story.

It’s probably no surprise to you that turnover in this department was rampant. It’s probably no surprise to you that his employees that stood outside the Senior HR Leaders door wanting/needing/begging to talk to them. What may however, be a surprise is that no one did anything to stop this gentleman because he was the guy that “…knew how to get results.”

The broad definition of a bully is any behavior that intimidates, humiliates or demeans a person. In some cases it’s directed or it can just be part of a hostile and poisoned work environment. What organizations need to remember is that bullying is a form of harassment and to stand idly by, can only lead to more problems. As of 2011, BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec are required to have a Psychological Harassment Policy in place and bullying is prohibited under human rights laws (Alberta will follow shortly.) According to BC Business Magazine in 2010 there were 4X more bullying complaints than sexual harassment complaints, meaning your organization could be next…are you prepared?

The effects of bullying are very real: The Employer will most likely see increased turnover and absenteeism, decreased morale, losses in productivity and perhaps legal costs incurred to defend claims brought on by employees.

Your HR department however, isn’t necessarily the ones to stop bullying in the workplace. Your Harassment policy won’t stop bullying either. Instead, it needs to be the collective leadership team who buys into the fact that bullying is not synonymous with management. A plan (as a team) needs to be devised and as a team, the plan needs to be followed. This isn’t just an HR issue – it’s a management problem.

Signs of a Bully:

  • anyone who yells, insults or name calls their employee
  • anyone who is persistent and excessive with criticism directed to an employee
  • anyone who spreads malicious rumours about an employee
  • anyone who excludes or ignores their employees
  • anyone who undermines an employees efforts by setting impossible goals or deadlines
  • anyone who sabotages another employees work
  • anyone who impedes upon an employee getting a promotion or a transfer

If you are a bully or allowing a bully to be in your workplace, the consequences are very real. If you need help in handling a bully, there are organizations that are there to assist management teams. It’s time to take off the blinders, drop the kid gloves and finally solve the issue. If you don’t do it now, your pocketbook could be the one who feels the most pain.

For more information on Bullying or Psychological Harassment in the workplace check out:


Michelle Berg, CHRP
Michelle’s twelve year experience has spanned the health services, financial services, information technology and professional service sectors. She has supported and set-up HR departments on both a national and international stage, from South Korea to South America. Her most recent post was the Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Administration for a mid-sized international, multi-million dollar firm. Dedicated to a quick turnaround and coming up with innovative ideas that promote the growth of the business, Michelle is committed to helping businesses move to the next stage. Michelle can be located via her website Elevated HR Solutions, Facebook, and Twitter.

Strategic Sense has bookings available for Executive, Director and Management Advisory sessions. Contact us for more information at 403-201-8512


Give “it” A Rest

give it a rest

Photo Courtesy of Alex Bruda, Romania

No really, give it a rest – whatever “it” is that might have you preoccupied or obsessing, thus taking you away from positive action and relationships.

caret initio et fine
(It lacks a beginning and an end)

1. Combine physical and mental action together to remove your mind from “it”.

Such as horseback riding, running, swimming, working out, meditating – concentrate on your breathing.

2. Make a concerted effort to remove “it” from all conversations.

Such as gossiping, sharing, creating imagined scenarios, or bringing “it” up.

3. Stop reviewing, re-reading, snooping into or otherwise finding ways to look into “it”

Such as visiting locations repeatedly, reading, viewing or re-hashing the event as those actions only serve to bring “it” into the present.

Whatever your “it” is, chances are the event itself is neutral and your reaction to “it” is emotional. Help yourself keep it neutral by choosing NOT to grow “it” out of proportion.

And that, my friends, is how to NOT make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Patti Blackstaffe, President of Strategic Sense Inc, is a Speaker, Strategic Advisor and Trainer in Leadership, Customer Service and Cultural integration through Mergers and Acquisition.You can book her to speak at her personal page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals, teams, group training and company strategy. Read what folks have to say about her eBook Leadership XXL: 11 Practical Steps to Living Leadership Extra, Extra Large.

Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there, and call us. (403) 201-8512


We DO want great employees, right…or do we?

give employees a voice

photo courtesy of Laura Leavell, Florida

I hear it time and time again;

“We want to find employees who really care about our business, who are passionate about our customers and who will fight to do what’s right.”

They are employers who lament over how hard it is to get ‘good help’ or who again and again repeat phrases like, “employees aren’t what they used to be” or “this new generation just doesn’t care.”

I call their bluff and I up the ante.

A recent article in our local paper caught my eye last week about an employee who IS passionate, who is fighting for his customers and who is trying to do what’s right. His name is Dr. Lloyd Maybaum, a psychiatrist in Calgary who truly wants to make a difference for his patients. This man is not only concerned about his own patients, according to the article, but he is concerned about all patients in his field of practice. He has tried to care about them using his voice, his friends and his heart, begging to have a mental health unit built as planned for the South Campus.

His reward according to this article is… a letter stating;

“I am forced to make a clear statement that further communications of this nature without discussion and review with members of the Executive of Mental Health and Addictions will require . . . (asking) the Executive to formally review your role as physician leader for psychiatry to the South Campus project.”

So, for asking other doctors to lobby and help his cause, he is slapped on the hand and told to keep quiet. I bring this article to attention because of the leadership priority involved in the situation.

What can we learn from such a disastrous treatment of a well-meaning employee?

  • The leadership in this case is obviously the priority – not health care, not the patients, not the cause, but what is important is the decision of the leadership.
  • The direction cannot be challenged.
  • The right thing to do is defined by the leadership and anyone who disagrees might just as well keep their mouths shut or be threatened.

Sadly, he is not alone in this kind of behaviour by an executive or management group – we see it all the time within organizations who are unwilling to admit their culture is more about covering their rear-ends than caring about the customer or the actual role the company plays in business.

Managers who squash information, hide facts, deflect responsibility, and punish employees for caring about the customer will at worst bury the company and at best, leave it scarred with members who are frustrated and angry. Not exactly what one looks for when seeking a positive, collaborative and innovative culture.

We need passionate employees who care about how we deliver our services, people who see it from a customer relationship side, people who understand the service or product as it is being used, how it is being serviced and what kind of experience we provide. They are the voices we NEED to hear, the voices who challenge us to, as Rebel Brown puts it, Defy Gravity and reach success. We need to celebrate folks who are brave enough to help us understand where we are falling down, not punish them because their voice might make us appear like we don’t know what we are doing.

Do you have an example of a leadership who steps in and tries to quell the voice of reason?


Getting Rid of a Super-Star

You’re the boss, you own or are in charge of the company and it has grown a bit. You are convinced you need each and every one of the people you employ but you have a bit of a conundrum, you are getting a lot of complaints about one or two of your star employees.

These stars have been with you since the beginning, they seem to know everything about the business, they are good with the numbers and they bring money into the business. You simply can’t understand why so many people are complaining about them.

Some days you think;

“I am tired of hearing all this bickering, why can’t these people just get along and get some work done.”

Sorry to tell you this… but it is YOUR job to deal with the issue. You either need to figure out a way to work with your HR department and find some solutions for the issues, or you need to weigh the true value of your super-star against the potential loss of trust, productivity and actual employees from the teams who are complaining about your super-star.

No matter how much money someone is bringing into the company, if their leadership is causing strife in the teams, they either need to be coached in their leadership or they need to find a different path. Either way, it is your job to take care of it.

Handing this off or ignoring the issue is irresponsible to the company, your company and will eventually result in a far greater loss than is ever gained by your super-star. I have witnessed this in a company and watched as it slowly and painfully became the one place no one wanted to be due to a few ‘superstars’. The environment is toxic and the damage is irreparable, all of which could have been avoided by someone with strength enough to remove folks who are counter-productive to a healthy culture.

Know your people – all of them, not just the apparent super-stars!


When cultures collide, does the CEO take charge?


Cultures Collide

Image provided by Sias van Schalkwyk, South Africa

If you’ve ever belonged to a company that’s been taken over through a merger or acquisition by another company, rest assured, your original Executive will change camps.

Companies typically buy other companies for how the product leverages its portfolio or market share, not because it’s filled with rocking collaborators.

I have yet to see a merger or acquisition result in anything less than a collision of cultures.

The difference in the success or failure after the purchase or merging of these cultures can be described in how the collision takes place. It can be anywhere from a bump of the shoulders and eventual turn toward the same goal to a total a write-off like a car left in a twisted wreck.

The change-management of such a significant alteration in the ‘flow’ of an organization takes time and effort, and it begins at the CEO level. Acceptance of good decisions in the purchase or merger with another company almost always is adopted by the executive first. Let’s face the fact, it behoves them to do so. The higher in the organization you are, the more you must adopt the direction set forth before you if you are to remain and still play nice in the sandbox and reach success.

If little or no change-management or clarity of direction is offered the employees, they’ll feel like they’ve been betrayed as they witness their executive ‘going over’ to the other side.

People like their current work-flow (good or bad) and significant change shakes up the apple cart – this requires guidance and leadership. Guidance begins, (and must be followed through), at the CEO level. The CEO who rolls up the sleeves, gets involved in the change-management and helps the organization evolve is better equipped to retain its best talent, industry expertise and product knowledge.

Choose to leave it to others, and those others will follow your lead, leaving it to others all the way down the chain until the mass exodus out the door begins at the front line levels and works its way back up. What are you risking by ignoring the obvious?


Title versus Entitlement – Humanity 101

“I weigh the man, not his title; ’tis not the king’s stamp can make the metal better.” ~William Wycherley

I read an article this week about a Vancouver Police Officer who was caught on security video pushing down a woman with a disability and it brought to mind how so often title, power and specific roles have potential to create entitlement attitudes. We can only see the visual which offers the appearance of a lack of empathy, human judgment and minimal compassion, and I will add that none of us know the whole story – but what followed was certainly a day in PR hell for the Vancouver Police department.

All steps taken by the department as mentioned in the article are cleanup steps for an act most of us wish did not appear so blatantly unacceptable. The organization quickly puts into place responses from the Department as well as the officer in aftermath to the situation. I don’t envy the Vancouver Police Department role at this point, but it did bring to mind a few overall questions about leadership.

  • What draws employees in trusted roles of responsibility to believe they have the right to a lack of empathy and discriminatory behaviour toward others?
  • What is it about the crowd mentality that stops the companions of that person from challenging or counteracting poor behaviour?

I know some very incredible people who serve as Law Enforcement Officers and who are there for the right reasons and whom do not abuse their position or their power. They are good citizens who put their lives at risk for my protection. I also know one or two who make me nervous. The video of this incident should make us all a bit nervous of the few and remind us there is no hierarchy in humanity.

A leadership position does not make you better than anyone, it carries with it the responsibility for service to others and asks that leaders in every role, in every corner of every organization, understand that we are all deserving of respect and compassion as human beings.

An organization that fails to build a culture of respect, empathy, compassion and service fails to understand leadership.

No mention in the article speaks about the role of the two officers accompanying the officer in question, but they carry as much responsibility for the act as the officer who performed it by their lack of action, they also are members of a force who’s “…mission is to serve.”

A title, a raise, celebrity, money; these are not permission to live by different rules than the rest of society.

“Status” does not afford the right to bypass respect, honour, consideration and compassion at any level, in any organization or within any community.

Those few who choose to feel entitled to breaking societal rules unfairly blanket their peers with an ugly cloth of distrust.

Each of us is a leader; we are asked to serve every time we are put into a position of responsibility for the well being of another. Any time we behave to others with disrespect, we disrespect those peers who are doing their best to do the right thing, champion diversity and who care to take their mission to serve seriously.

Leaders, choose your actions wisely.

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Small business. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us if you prefer to rise above the status-quo, care deeply about employee and customer experiences and truly believe in living and performing with excellence.


Just Get Out Of The Way!

There are a lot of different descriptions of what a tool-kit really is, and it’s different for everyone.

Plumbers have a varied tool-kit to Electricians. Teens will need a different tool-kit than toddlers for getting through the learning curve that is teen life. Equally, leaders will benefit by understanding the tool-kits needed by their team members so they can do their jobs!

So what exactly makes up a tool-kit? It’s anything utilized by an employee to enable and enhance their ability to perform and exceed their expected role as an employee. You wouldn’t ask a software developer to write code on paper – you’d provide him with a computer, the right software, the ability to properly test it and (very important tools) the support to take as many roadblocks out of their way in order for them to do the job. That could include providing them with space to focus, limiting meetings and interruptions, fighting for the budgetary means to allow them to continue. It also means getting out of their way!

Leaders forget sometimes they are no longer the hands-on specialist. Often, they find themselves wanting to dig in and work with, rather than guide, employees. We’ve been hearing from a number of our clients that sometimes all they want is time to get the job done. Frustration over a manager who is keen to take part can provide the following impressions:

  • The Leader is micromanaging
  • The Leader is not confident in their employee’s abilities
  • The Leader doesn’t trust the employee to do the job ‘right’.

Often the case is simply an enthusiasm and keen desire to be part of something they have left behind.

So what is today’s message? Provide employees with what they need and then please get out of their way! Offer them the chance to shine, to improve and to make a difference on the team. We don’t suggest you abandon them, by any means; you are there to support and provide a tool-kit for them in order to enable them to shine. Avoid hindering them!

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership, Customer Service and Small business. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us if you prefer to rise above the status-quo, care deeply about employee and customer experiences and truly believe in living and performing with excellence.