Archive for Change Management

Rocks Nests and Curiosities of Change

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smRockFormation Rocks Nests and Curiosities of Change

It always surprises me a little when someone says; “I leave my personal life at the door when I come to work.” While that may be what some companies want to hear, the reality is quite different. People’s lives are not compartmentalized, every thought, feeling and emotion they feel permeates every other thing in their day. The person who ‘checks it at the door’ is more than likely in better control when it comes to showing it.

All transition provides lessons and we know transition is that difficult, awkward, uncomfortable time preparing us for the new. Change comes into our work life for all kinds of reasons, sometimes it is a welcome change driven by us, other times it is a change handed to us. Either way, the change is there and we need to face it. But first, we need to move through transition.

The Rock

Transition periods are tough for people. In that period it’s like the person is a rock formation in high tide, being slapped furiously and repeatedly while remaining stalwart at the job, trying to survive. One can imagine how easy it would be to resent being that rock. But there are gifts in change. Check out just what happens to a large rock formation as it gets cleansed, reshaped and even sheds off debris and all that clings to it for security begins to wash away. The old begins to disappear and the new forged beauty begins to show. Surviving transition and being willing to take the hits often leads to better things so try not to run.

Mark Mueller-Eberstein in his TED talk discusses the transition curve of denial, anxiety, shock, fear, anger, frustration, confusion and stress. These are the many emotions of a team member at the end of one way of doing things, and prior to reorientation of a new approach. Morale begins to drop just after fear. Have you as a leader addressed it?

The Nest

It’s easy to see why mitigating resistance during a change is hard. Transition‘s ugly, and the nest of ‘what has been’ is comfortable. Ever awaken on a very cold morning and not want to get out of bed because you know once you do, you’ll be shivering? Loved ones, friends, plans, and yes, even breakfast are right there outside of that bed, but you can’t make yourself move. The comforter isn’t more important or more loved; it’s the transition you are avoiding. The thought of going through the goose-bumps, the shivering, and the cold on your way to the things you love will keep you there so long you even hold off going to the bathroom as early as you should. We like our comfort; we truly hate leaving it especially to move through transition. It’s even worse, when companies fail to prepare their people or help their employees understand what the vision is and what that transition might look like.

The Curiosity

Regardless of the catalyst for change, people want to know what’s going on. They want to know what to expect, what they will be losing and what they aim to gain. They want leaders with enough emotional intelligence to recognize the stages of transition and to carefully guide them past the stress toward creativity, acceptance, hope and enthusiasm. Basically, they need the right information to do their job and believe they will still have success after the change. They need a reason to shed what’s comfortable and move toward the new vision. Honestly, which would get you out of bed faster – if you thought is was cereal for breakfast or you were told it was a 3 cheese omelet with bacon?

Leading Change

Sharing the vision is the most important thing you can do, over and over and over again!

Planning the path is second, and that path is going to be slightly different for every group, person, and department – because ‘what’s in it for them’ will be slightly different. You can use any methodology you like, any system you like, but if you don’t coach and enable a leadership and subsequent management staff to focus on owning and dealing with the people through that change, then adoption will take much longer, I can guarantee it.

Lead change, give vision and time for the rocks, manage the transition, give people a reason to leave their nest and be willing to own it.


Patti Snippet Rocks Nests and Curiosities of ChangePatti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations for engaged and successful change, guiding leaders and their organizations toward mastery and leadership through change management advising, coaching, innovation, facilitation, process review and efficiency.

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

Contact us here to book for:

Innovation | Change Management | Executive Coaching | Team Building | Facilitation


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Positive Patterns in Life and Work

positive change Positive Patterns in Life and Work

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I had coffee with a buddy from high school  a few years ago where he described a bit of his research in neurosciences to me. While much of what he talked about was a little above my head regarding his Alzheimer research, when we moved onto the topic of change, I was completely fascinated and engaged. He told me much of what we perceive regarding our own habits and patterns is a fallacy when it comes to describing those habits as; “It’s just genetics.”- “It’s who I am.” -“I can’t help it. – “I am just not _____________.” (fill in the blank with any perceived short-coming)

Working in the area of leadership development, through the coaching process, and any change-management initiative, we’ve learned many people resist change at the expense of their futures to maintain their current comfort. Some even resist it to maintain their current discomfort. Why? Because changing takes work. There is no magic wand transitioning us instantly to a goal or desired state. We must fight the path of least resistance and begin that hard cognitive work of changing ourselves and, inevitably, it will shake up every part of our lives when we do.

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. ~Anatole France

Here are three steps one can take to do the hard work to create positive change:

Own It

Realize if you are an adult and have been for a number of years, you are responsible for your life. You made the decisions to get there, you built or eliminated the relationships, you are the one who reacted to your environment or events and that reaction has put you in the place you now stand. Taking responsibility for your existing patterns and habits is the first step in the change process. Deflecting responsibility or accountability for your life on others will keep you exactly where you are, no matter how much you “wish” things were different. So long as you can pass it off as someone else’s fault, you will not change a thing. (Keep in mind that we are talking about personal choices, not external influences outside of our control.)

Practice Discipline

Changing patterns or habits is a lot like practicing piano. You start with a few easy things and increase the difficulty as you go, however, unless you practice, practice, and practice, you will not create a habit. A habit is just that, doing one thing over and over again until you don’t even have to think about it. This takes discipline over a long period of time, especially if you are attempting to eliminate a different habit. Changing your lifestyle, your money patterns, and your work routines does not happen overnight. It can take as many as 25-27 months in our experience coaching leaders as they use discipline to develop new habits, reactions and work patterns to improve or grow as strong leaders of people.

Reset Thought Patterns

This is the tough one. Just as a truck creates a path in a wheat field, that path grows firmer and more solid every time it is driven upon.  Unfortunately, so do the neurotransmitters in your brain. A farmer who needs to enter the field will take the easiest path, the one created first so as to make it easy to enter without disturbing the crop. Your brain works the same way, each time a similar situation arises, our brains take the path of least resistance, the one created the first time a situation arises, and it does so at lightning speed. Add 25-40 years of traveling that same route and you can see how easy it is to think “it’s just how I am”. But you can drive through a different field. First, you need to identify the patterns needing a reset, and it’s never easy. Get some help in learning how to reset your thought patterns by contacting a counselor for personal and relationship issues or a coach/strategist for leadership and business. There is great value in someone offering you a vantage point from the outside, as well as provide solutions and strategies you had not previously thought about.

Most often, the necessity for change enters our personal lives as a push, a difficult period or a life awakening – our business lives force change for many reasons related to the business or the market/environment. Sometimes our eyes become opened to a better way, or we are simply so uncomfortable stagnating that without change we feel we may not survive. Sound dramatic? Well, life can be that way. How we react to our lives, remain open to new things, accept positive criticism, stretch outside our comfort zones and work hard to reach our greatest potential is when we feel the greatest reward. Notice I said work, great things rarely come easy, but they are usually worth the hard effort it takes to get there.

This post was originally published for the Life Change Network in November 2012.


Patti Snippet Positive Patterns in Life and WorkPatti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations for engaged and successful change, guiding leaders and their organizations toward mastery and leadership through change management advising, coaching, innovation, facilitation, process review and efficiency.

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

Contact us here to book for:

Innovation | Change Management | Executive Coaching | Team Building | Facilitation


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Are You Leading for Change Management?

website media Are You Leading for Change Management?Leading for Change...a few years ago Patti, our Strategist,  was interviewed for an article of the same title in Success Magazine.  In that article she stressed the importance of involving the team in finding solutions, saying;

“When employees know the plan, the direction, the mission and the goals, it gives them something concrete and real to focus their actions toward. It helps them understand how they add value to the direction of the company and shows them their own worth toward building success for the organization.”

Recently, a new client approached us because they have been struggling with the internal management of some of their change initiatives.  The topic of managing change is a relatively new area for them and they have made assignments regarding the change management role.  When we identified for them that they have not developed a common understanding across the organization as to exactly what change management is, they began to better understand why some of their initiatives were failing.

What was happening?

  • Employees believed they WERE performing change management in their respective areas.
  • The words Change Management were being used but not necessarily performed in the manner the industry recognizes.
  • They were seeing ‘ownership’ of their piece of the project threatened by the new change management role, assuming their piece would be taken away.
  • They were unwittingly sabotaging the change efforts of the change manager.
  • They had a number of ‘change’ initiative going on, but did not support at the highest level.
  • They were treating the process as an administrative duty.

It didn’t take long to get them on the right track, what they needed was a company-wide definition of the Change Management Process for their organization. They needed to engage the people in the organization to clarify this common definition for the entire company.  Then they needed to engage teams in learning just what that involved.  Most had no idea that change management is actually a process, not a series of random steps performed in isolation of the other steps.  “We added a little Change Management to this…” means they had no idea what change management actually involves.SuccessMagazine e1389916187730 Are You Leading for Change Management?

In your best sponsorship, are you leading change by creating clarity and understanding from the top and including people from ALL levels of the organization so that they have both input and a common understanding of initiatives? Here are some ways to help you build the competency in your organization:

  • Bring in someone to help you define a change process for your organization.
  • Train the people you will be assigning as change practitioners
  • Enlighten the organization with clarity on exactly what change management involves.

Let me leave you with Patti’s other quote I like from the article:

“You don’t have all the answers, and science is showing that a group of committed collaborators trumps a single genius for finding amazing solutions.”

Clarity and engagement – two keys to success in Leading Change – Make it Grand!


Wallyb icon Are You Leading for Change Management?Walt Blackstaffe works with Organizations in process and procedure development, streamlining business practices and managing change, guiding them toward mastery and leadership. Walt accomplishes this through Analytics, Change Management, Advising, Coaching, and delivering team building.

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

Contact us here to book for:

Innovation | Change Management | Executive Coaching | Team Building | Facilitation


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Own It to Change It

french.horn2  Own It to Change It How does organizational change occur?

Change occurs because people, just like you and me, made the decision to change.  How that decision came about may be different for each individual involved; the motivator, influence or even traumatic event that may occur and spur someone toward change is usually personal and unique to each.

In the end, change occurred because the individual decided to take responsibility for their contribution to the current state of affairs & take action toward the future.

Every stakeholder involved plays an instrument in the orchestra of change.

Successful, sustained change occurs when someone owns and takes responsibility for their individual piece of the musical score, especially if it achieved a not-so-appealing outcome based on past performance.

Change is hard.  It involves leaving our comfort zones, habits or belief systems and developing new ones.  The transition is messy while we figure out how to accomplish new behaviours.  There will even be a few mistakes along the way and people will need to readjust, (forgive), move forward and shift action.  It can be awkward or frustrating.  Keeping the whole orchestra (organization) and the final performance (goals) in focus will help.

  • Each person needs to know what instrument they play and how that instrument contributes to the whole.
  • Each person will need their own sheet music and it will be slightly different than someone playing a different instrument.
  • Each person will need to own their personal performance AND how they perform along with others.  (You’ve all heard music when one instrument is off or out of tune.)

Making change is not about laying blame, it’s about being responsible for and owning ‘what doesn’t work’ or is no longer sustainable action – owning it personally in your corner of the stage – and it will take practice.  Equally important to successful change is collaborating with others, following the beat or lead of another, being supportive of and aligning with other members of the orchestra, not to mention caring deeply about those people who will bear witness to the performance.

Own it to change it…

With luck, your orchestra has a supportive and active conductor guiding you along the way.

P.S. If you have an absentee or a non supportive conductor, you are still part of an orchestra and need to own your part in the overall performance in spite of a lack of leadership.  Working together WITH the other musicians toward the greater performance is the best way to win with change.

P.P.S. Pointing fingers at others and blaming a lack of leadership as an excuse for poor performance or a bad attitude is a cop-out that shifts responsibility to others – this is a lose-lose activity.  Win-Win activities involve owning it to change it.



Patti Snippet Own It to Change ItPatti Blackstaffe works with people and organizations for engaged and successful change, guiding leaders and their organizations toward mastery and leadership through change management advising, coaching, innovation, facilitation, process review and efficiency.

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

Contact us here to book for:

Innovation | Change Management | Executive Coaching | Team Building | Facilitation


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Are You Asking the Right Questions?

Question Are You Asking the Right Questions?“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.


patticropped 150x150 Are You Asking the Right Questions?Patti 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


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Sometimes Mirrors Are Scary

The economy may not be in a hurry to recover, but some employees might be.

Unhappy Sometimes Mirrors Are Scary

photo courtesy of Felix atsoram, Argentina

Desperate employees are the easiest to retain within ‘miserable to work for’ companies when times are tough and jobs are hard to find.  Even better for that miserable company is the reasoning that the poor economic environment requires everyone to ‘buck up’ and ‘give one for the Team’.

It’s a great run for short-sighted organizations who fail to see the lack of business sense and poor strategy behind the ‘right now’ chaos where the horse is often chasing the cart down the hill. That strategy won’t take your company where it needs to be when the market improves.

When jobs are easier to find, unhappy employees will make a fast exodus out the door straight to a happier workplace and they take all that valuable knowledge with them.

Being aware of poor morale and unhappy employees isn’t enough – companies need to take action to make positive changes.

The solution most often preferred by the folks in charge is to make a shuffle and rearrange management.

Just remember, a bag of marbles is the same bag of marbles no matter how you arrange it. Unhappy employees are a symptom of the real cause.

I leave you with seven thoughts on leading toward building a happier workplace:

  • To solve your problem it will take great courage in targeting the cause, not the symptom.
  • Change requires you take a good honest look at your entire organization in the mirror – top to bottom – with a fresh eye.
  • You must be willing to take some of the heat in order to make the right changes.
  • Accountability, responsibility, transparency and clear strategy are going to be vital with any change.
  • You must be willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
  • You will hear a lot of things you don’t want to hear, listen to them.
  • Trust the employees to want to make it better.

These are just a few – but the courageous leader who cares about their company is going to make some hard calls and is going to be unpopular for them.  I have never tried to convince someone that doing the right thing is easy, but it is worth it.

Good luck, Make It Grand!


Patti  150x149 Sometimes Mirrors Are ScaryPatti 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

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‘Step Up’ and Direct Change For the Future

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.  Such as Jeffrey Summers, the President and Founder of RestaurantWorx who wrote about Building the Ultimate Customer Experience.

Today’s Guest Post is by Joan Koerber-Walker who has recently stepped up again as  President and CEO of AZBio and whose blog we follow and share regularily because of it’s insight and great messages.

And now, here’s Joan…


DSC00084 Step Up and Direct Change For the Future

The Great Wall of China – © Chris Walker 2001 all rights reserved

Change is not a passive activity. Leadership isn’t either.   When we see something that is changing, we find our opportunity to step up and lead.  Just as with the Great Wall of China, there are thousands of opportunities to step up.

As we look around our businesses, our homes, our communities and our countries, we can always find areas in need of improvement.  In each of these areas, we have a choice.  We can sit back, watch and complain OR we can step up, lead and direct change for the better.

Take your walking stick on the journey.

Whether we choose to keep our world small or embrace it globally, each of us have our own unique talents, skills, and experiences that we can use to drive innovation in the world around us,  These are the tools at our disposal that act as walking sticks, supporting us with each step we take IF we choose to use them. Some leadership journeys can be very long and others can be incredibly steep.  Bringing everything you have to offer to the project gives you something to lean on along the way.

Connect your steps.

Stepping up does not have to  mean traveling alone. It’s been said that it’s lonely at the top. Keep in mind that it does  not have to be.  Just like the Great Wall, there really is no “top” just a series of plateaus and mile posts that connect along the journey.  With each connection comes the opportunity to form a bond with others who share your goals, passions and reasons for taking the lead.  These bonds foster communication and the sharing of ideas just as in ancient times the Great Wall served as China’s foundation for a network of communications linking outpost to outpost.

Look back… Move Forward.

At times, when stepping up, the journey may seem too long ahead of us.  This can sap our energy and slow our steps.  When this happens, don’t be afraid to pause and look behind you at all of the steps that have lead you to this point.  The progress you have made will fuel your energy once again and the momentary rest will give your leadership muscles a chance to recover.  Then, when  it is time, move forward to step up again.  You might just leave a legacy as enduring as the Great Wall of China.


John.JKW  Step Up and Direct Change For the FutureJoan Koerber-Walker recently stepped up again as  President and CEO of AZBio, the Arizona BioIndustry Association to lead an organization dedicated to the growth of the bioscience industry in her home state and its impact on health, energy, agriculture and the economy.  A two time Stevie Award National Finalist and former Fortune 500 executive, she is also the  Chairman of the Board of CorePurpose, Inc. and the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation and serves as Executive in Residence for Callaman Ventures.  As the former CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association and a past member of the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association in Washington, D.C. she has worked with hundreds of small businesses and on behalf of thousands.  Chat with her on Twitter as @joankw, @JKWgrowth, @JKWinnovation, @JKWleadership and @CorePurpose or at her blog at

Patti Image.xsm  Step Up and Direct Change For the FuturePatti 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

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When cultures collide, does the CEO take charge?

Rutting sm1 When cultures collide, does the CEO take charge?

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?

Patti is a strategic advisor in Leadership Development, Customer Service and Culture through Mergers and Acquisition. You can book her to speak at her Speakers Page.

Need Strategic Sense for your business? – hire us for Leadership Development of individuals & teams, group training and company strategy. Happy Workplaces Succeed, take the path to get there. 403-201-8512

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Personal Responsibility – Part 2 – Dealing with your own!

In Part 1 of this series, we were introduced to the idea of Personal Responsibility and an understanding for areas in our lives where it is best applied (everywhere). We ended with the understanding that a company cannot put full accountability measures in place in order to ensure all employees take personal responsibility for their actions, but they can make it known what they will or will not tolerate.

Companies that are accepting of deflection and avoidance of personal responsibility will generally see it running rampant. Why, because it is a learned behaviour. The interesting thing that happens when you take more than one or two people and gather them into a building is the behavioural diversity which occurs and then later melds to create a behavioural culture. Multiply that into corporate numbers of employees and your leader will have his/her hands full in order to manage the varied behaviours that will be represented. Ultimately, the top gun and their executive will be required to define the acceptable behaviour within their organization and sometimes they fail to understand the significance of this responsibility.

When allowed to run rampant, poor behaviour is not only a learned behaviour brought in from outside the organization, but also becomes a learned behaviour from within. Managers with poor behaviour, in practice, train and hone poor behaviour within their teams until it becomes the “culturally accepted” manner in which business is done within the company. The same pattern exists with companies whose management exhibits exceptional and excellent behaviour. The managers’ employees, if brought up organically through the company, then continue learned behavioural patterns from their management unless the chain is broken. Breaking the patterns involve a huge undertaking most often triggered by two key events.

  1. Company Leaders, starting at the top, are concerned about specific behaviour and take action to ensure they communicate the undesirable behaviours not to be tolerated and set expectations of acceptable behaviour.
  2. A new leader is employed by the company to shake things up and create a newly defined culture.

Both tasks challenge the very behaviours with which employees are familiar and one can expect change will not be welcomed by most. The importance of making change cannot be underscored, because managers who choose to combine poor behaviour with a lack of personal responsibility will pull attrition rates right down the pipe and this is turnover most companies can ill-afford.

Professor Robin Stuart-Kotze PhD from Behavioural Science Systems Ltd.( founded in 1972 by Dr. Stuart-Kotze) cites the following statistics in his article “Bad Behaviour Isn’t Necessary”:

“Statistics show that while 25% of people who are subjected to this type of behaviour leave their jobs, that’s not all that happens; 20% of the people who witness the behaviour also quit.”

The behaviour we are focusing on in this series is the Avoidance of Personal Responsibility. The lack of Personal Responsibility in the leadership of an organization is nothing but detrimental to the organization in performance and morale.

If you are a leader, it’s your job to put ‘accepting personal responsibility’ top of the list of appropriate behaviour within your organization. The CEO and subsequent executive must decide for themselves what kind of behaviour is acceptable and what kind is not. The job is then to begin putting performance measures into place which will inhibit the practice of those behaviours which are deemed outside of appropriate behaviour for the company. Making a well-defined change-management plan is vital, remember, measures can only go so far, the leadership of the company need to continually convey messages of what behaviour they will and will not accept.

The best way to accomplish a change toward cultural personal responsibility is;

1. Ensure all promotions and career advancement are measured specifically to lead people’s behaviour toward what the company deems acceptable.

2. Set clear expectations communicated throughout the company of what is acceptable and what behaviour is not at all tolerable.

Don’t just “talk” it, walk that talk and measure it, promote the kind of people you would be proud to have as your company representatives, release those who cannot meet company expectations and be clear you are creating a performance management system which is well-rounded – not just based on margin.

As an employee it can be devastating to work with a leader who deflects personal responsibility and worse yet, points fingers and blames others to claw their way to the top. Often within companies, poor behaviour is responded to with equally poor behaviour because it is culturally acceptable to do so. In the matter of responsibility avoidance a company becomes its own worst enemy by promoting and supporting those managers who practise it.

What does an employee do in tough times when they are lucky to have a job yet find themselves in a company where Avoidance of Personal Responsibility is running rampant?

The reality is such that if you feel you cannot affect change while in a subordinate position, what you CAN do is make a point of putting checks and balances on your own behaviour to ensure you don’t go down that same path. Make a commitment to standing firm on your own values and being the kind of leader you would be proud to follow. To start, you can look at ways you might be avoiding responsibility yourself, then you need to determine why you do it.

Dr. Robin Stuart-Kotze describes responsibility avoidance as performance blocking behaviour in his article Dealing with Performance Blocking Behaviour – Your Own. Performance blocking means you’re putting a block in your performance and that can definitely be career limiting.

Here is what Dr. Stuart-Kotze says about Performance Blocking Behaviours:

“…absorb valuable time and energy, slow down growth, increase costs, cause valuable people to leave, and create a climate of low commitment to achievement. Performance Blocking behaviours are in almost all cases emotional reactions to external forces – threat, frustration, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, etc.”

“The main causes of Responsibility Avoidance behaviour [within an organization] are:

· fear of failure

· fear of having one’s actions and decisions challenged

· fear of the risk of responsibility

· feeling trapped in a job one doesn’t like or want to do”

In an effort to curb performance blocking behaviour, Dr. Stuart-Kotze suggests individuals learn to recognize when they’re “feeling frustrated, anxious, nervous, threatened, powerless, helpless, slighted, unappreciated or angry” and then deal with why that emotion is stirred within them.

While it’s hard work to change personal behaviour it’s certainly not impossible. A detailed awareness of what emotion is felt and an understanding for the belief system behind that emotion will help a person determine where to start on the road to taking responsibility.

Here are a few suggestions for how to ensure you are working hard to take responsibility for your actions:

  1. Make of list of the items you think you may be avoiding when it comes to taking responsibility for them. (Hint: use the list of emotions Dr. Stuart-Kotze lists above)
  2. Better yet, Dr. Stuart-Kotze suggests you find a co-worker you trust to help you determine if you are exhibiting any performance blocking behaviour, and in this case those which lead you away from taking personal responsibility.
  3. Especially examine those things for which you are either blaming others or that leave you feeling victimized.
  4. Examine each item carefully and ask yourself, “What was my role in this one that produced the outcome realized?” Be honest with yourself about your part in getting to the undesirable outcome and keep all focus away from anyone else. Do this with each item in your list.
  5. Own your action. Define how you could manage it differently to reach a different or better outcome. Ignore your desire to focus on what someone else should have done, acted or said. Pay attention to what YOU could change.

Dr. Stuart-Kotze suggests that expressing your emotions in the heat of the moment is usually not helpful in the situation but putting your focus on how to improve a situation is. He notes that, “All too often, blocking behaviours are intended to delay things, to avoid facing up to things, to deny things, to project onto others what you are really feeling and doing yourself or to rationalise what you are doing”

Ideally, you want to evaluate if your reaction to certain situations inhibits your ability to deal with them appropriately or are limiting your career. Avoid lying to yourself. Avoid blame or finger pointing, and seek to find choices you can make, actions you can take and changes you can implement with a strong sense of personal responsibility. When you are ready to take action, try to ask yourself in advance if it’s an action you can live with while taking full and considered personal responsibility for it.

If you already take personal responsibility seriously and work in a company where it’s not valued by the management, it might very well drive you to frustration to stay – just make sure you don’t take a leap outside your value system! I don’t necessarily suggest you quit, but you do need to be honest with yourself. If you can’t fit your values into the values of the organization, be kind to yourself and your career then carefully build your exit plan. Have patience and stand by your values while also keeping a keen eye out for opportunities at a company where the culture does support your value system.

If you are struggling to define your career fit, Strategic Sense Inc. has a Career Directions program to help you, contact us at: for more information

Strategic Sense Inc. Specializes in working with Executives of companies who care about their people and know their business is driven by the people within their employ.  Leadership, Communication, Strategy, Plans of Action.

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Changing The World For Humanity – What Are You Doing?

In my last post I put out a challenge to ask what you are doing to change the world in your home, at work, within your community and for the world. The first of this series is based on Humanity.

December 10 celebrates human rights day. Human rights surpasses religion and is about recognizing “dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family”.

The challenge is to stop, take a close look at how you, as an individual, can make a difference in the world starting at home, at work, in your community and then looking around at your contribution to the world.  Add your changes to the others!

Here are just a few of the responses I have received so far:
> I work as an educator in addition to my “day job”.
I also serve on community non-profit boards and committees to advance art in the region.

> Recycle
Volunteer my time to various shelters
Donate money to charities
Pray every day for peace on earth

> Home: I am changing my cooking schedules to accommodate my university son’s exams
Work: I am volunteering my time and efforts for students needing decorating expertise on their formal dance.
Community: Sit on one Board of Directors and on the event committee with the Chamber of Commerce.
World: I am working hard at being more energy conscious and efficient.

In the spirit of understanding what Human Rights are, please consider reading  The Universal Declaration of Human Rights  created by the United Nations.

Take on the challenge and share as many as you possibly can this week.
Stop back next week to hear more about what others are doing to change the world and find out what the next challenge is.
Peace and good will to all.

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