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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

Perhaps more than anything else people are occupied with their self-image. Effectively, the self-image is a reflection of what we think others think we think of ourselves. It’s the mental picture of the way we wish to be perceived—in the main, our appearance.

The technical term used by behavioral psychology is self-schema, and it means to collectively represent the experiences and influences on us that form the self-image. As one might guess, humans rely heavily on a view of their self-image for achievement. When it is positive we are more likely to carry a spirited view of people and things. When negative we find the route to self-loathing and the second-guessing and self-deprecation that usually follows. In short, we lose our sense of value.

Not coincidentally, the marketplace operates in much the same way. There is an inside view and an outside view, and combined they work to define our potential for success. The inside view of our organizations, not unlike the self-image that considers such things as personality, attitude, sense of humor, accomplishments, and societal position, is a measure of its skills, expertise, style, and ability to satisfy needs—what makes it good in the eyes of the customer. Ultimately, both operate from the same encoding—we make promises about ourselves that are measured by our ability to deliver on them. When organizations deliver on their promises their capital rises. Effectively, they become more valuable to customers (than for their products alone), and distinguishable as such.

The important math in this equation is that both inside and outside realities match up. Most organizations want to believe they are unusually gifted at one or more aspects of serving the customer. General Electric says “We bring good things to life.” Exxon Mobil says that they are “Taking on the world’s toughest energy challenges.” Avis says “We try harder,” and another company says, “You’re in good hands with Allstate.” All are promises from organizations with an inside reality they would like to believe is equal to the outside perception of them.

In the final scene of this market drama everything trades on value, which itself depends wholly on an outside reality. Simply, does the customer see value in your offering—product, service, attitude, citizenship, excitement, solutions ability, etc.? If this is also what you’re “selling,” you are likely to cause a conversion in the marketplace—that is, a sale and a relationship. Clearly, organizations cannot successfully sell what they do not have. Sadly, too many do. Why? Because they have not understood or measured the outside perception against its inside reality.

Too often, organizations prepare an image of themselves from their desires and not from their demonstrated ability. So common is this disconnect that most organizations fail to achieve their stated goals. They are either afraid to check the market for its view of them, or too arrogant to consider it necessary. Both are forms of denial and lead to self-destruction, a self-image even more frightening than the view of them by customers.

A simple behavioral model

We are on the firmest footing when we have learned to confront issues—early and straight on. It’s the simplest of behavioral models. Organizations, by definition, confer both the right and the responsibility to do so. It makes little sense to invest mightily in an imagined outcome without checking its potential for success. When we do, we usually get an answer we like, but absent any sense that it is the right answer. We must be able to impute predictability to every initiative we take. It may be as fundamental as a commitment “to do our very best” in the pursuit of it. But planned outcomes must endow both an inside reality that is matched by an outside reality. Called market confirmation, it is necessary in the equation that matches what we sell with what the customer wants, needs, or is in the habit of buying.

As we approach this market grail, it is useful to engage a communications effort that combines science with the art of the “sell.” As the saying goes: “If you want to know why John Smith buys what John Smith buys, you’ve got to see the world through John Smith’s eyes.” And that may take a little persuading, so crank up the marketing machinery and keep these few things in mind:

  • You must cause an interrupt. That is, you must get the customer’s attention. There is so much competition for the attention of customers it is vital that you discover effective ways to accomplish it.
  • You must facilitate the decision-making process. Uniquely qualify your value proposition, such as guaranteeing the “lowest price” or “same-day delivery.” If the customer is caused to qualify you in his decision-making you have failed to facilitate the process.
  • Finally, you must reduce the risk of making a buying decision. An “unconditional satisfaction” guarantee will usually do it. This is the opposite of: NO REFUNDS, STORE CREDIT ONLY. Half the buying public will not buy from organizations with this policy.

We are never more bereft of resources than when we presume the mere “setting up shop” guarantees customers. Knowing what the customer wants is the key to forming an inside reality with market value.

September 27, 2018 |

Beyond Your Mean!

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

Few of us would accept that we are average, even though in polite company we might incline the lesser state. The linguistic artifice costs us little. But less is no achievement for most, so when our “roles” performance is at issue—worker, parent, friend, sibling—“average” is anything but how we wish to be seen. In fact, our tender psyche relies so heavily on the self-image—how we think others think we see ourselves—that less in the eyes of others often brings out the defensive in us.

Here, we are not talking about the “meaning” in the turn-of-phrase that ends in “s,” as in living beyond your means. That is mere “Kentucky Windage” in the aim to consider the “pitch” in our approach to the workplace and its essential role in performance improvement. Here, pitch is defined as the level of intensity, or the highness or lowness of something. In this vein, “mean,” the measure of value in a set or collection of elements classed together, is manifest in how we dispatch ourselves in the workplace. Simply, we are propelled in a sense, by the heart, mind, body, and soul in our work, and by this “set” of elements form the model of achievement that is uniquely ours.

The heart in our effort is more commonly our attitude, that element of intangible behavior that either tilts us forward or holds us back. We are most often considered for our skills, even evaluated for advancement based on “what” we can do. But what we know compared to what we do not know is so wide a gap that the measure of the latter surrounds us. Skills matter, but attitude—good and bad—is the primary reason for performance success. We might tolerate a poor attitude in some, in favor of unusual skills in them, but we seldom choose to align ourselves with them. Given the choice between the dour and the dirigible that floats on air, we seek the latter.

The mind in the holistic view is the element that enables a person to be aware of the world and his experiences, to think, and to feel, the faculty of consciousness and thought. When used more fully it goes beyond the mere intellect that facilitates learning. It is a rainbow spectrum of awareness that can manage both the simplest of things and the complex as easily. It is less the “shift register” in a computer, that stores data for rationalizing at each clock cycle; it is rather the determiner of all function, the thinking and doing planner that causes things to happen.

The body is bidder of all things. It is the toolbox at our disposal. We conceive an action in the mind, prepare our emotional and mental state in the heart, and set the body to work. It moves us from place to place, drives the car; it picks and places things, and even works to recondition itself for those who put it to exercise. It can take the form of love or war, revealing passion and vehemence. Without the “body” we might only think and feel, but never touch, taste, hear, or see color.

The soul in the context of the workplace is the purpose in our effort, as tied to our identity. We may think our purpose in words and images, and craft our identity in some measure of performance, but combined they present the meaning in what we do. The soul in our work drives us to fulfillment, that highest of needs that is the end in all endeavors. Our contributions are made ready by heart, mind, and body, but it is the soul in our work that uniquely qualifies us.

If I have your attention after this brief journey through the “looking glass” may I ask you the question above? Are you working “beyond your mean”? And, if not, why not?

The workplace is assumedly competitive, even more so today. How then might one distinguish himself among eager others? It may be that we only do what we know how to do. The sound of it is a death knell to achievement. Clearly, we must go beyond our “mean,” that average performance that makes lemmings of us too easily. But without the collective movement of our faculties we are fated to crawl while others dance. Somehow, we must find it in ourselves to go beyond our education, where in the words of Albert Einstein “learning begins.”

The heart, mind, body, and soul may be a good place to start. It slows the spirit and concentrates our efforts on real work, progress. In the end, we’ll have avoided Alice’s dilemma, having moved so fast only to find ourselves in the same place.

 

September 20, 2018 |

Adult Supervision

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

Efforts to inform organizations of “authentic leadership” play variously well across the marketplace. Some, schooled in the principles and practices of leadership, are enamored of the process of learning more about it and warm to the opportunity. Others “show up” because they’re told to do so, or believe it’ll be bad for them if they don’t. It’s a common scene, whether on the speaking circuit or inside the bowels of an organization — some follow their beliefs, others their noses.

The principle in this discussion (I’m trusting that some of you are “believers”) is “oversight”— that elusive but necessary part of all endeavor that underlies the system of accountability necessary to achievement. “Accountability” may be defined as responsible to someone for something. Its meaning forms other words and ideas, depending on your “experience and understanding”— that vital repository behaviorists call the unconscious mind. But, whatever your sense of the word, a system of accountability must be in place before we can begin the process of achievement — before we can apply the principle of oversight.

Each of us is subject to authority — a decision (or pattern) that confirms the desire or habit that reveals it. If we believe in what we’re doing — building companies, citizens, or communities — we can readily identify the hierarchy around us. A belief in something, or someone, requires trust, that niggling urge in us that measures our cautionary response. We will cross through that amber light or we won’t, depending on the measure of trust in our ability to make it through unscathed. We will follow the mission and vision of the organization we have “chosen” to join, again, by the measure of trust we place in them or ourselves. This last decision has an interesting sidebar that also measures the character of our approach — either outside/inside or inside/outside. You can muddle over that or write to further the discussion.

One more ingredient in this recipe for achievement is agreement. We must have it before we can form expectations of an organization or another, indeed, ourselves. Without it we are asking of others more than we have the right to. So, there you have it. We must believe to achieve. We must trust to believe. We must form agreement to define the thing/person we will trust. And we must have that agreement in place before we can be held accountable, before we can exercise oversight of the things that define achievement.

I admit to borrowing the title of this column from a Sarah Palin speech to Alaska legislators after her installation as Governor. She told them: “All of you here need some adult supervision.”

In simple terms that’s what accountability is — the oversight given authority by the agreement between people and organizations and people and people, to achieve some common end. But in the march to achievement most efforts break down. Why? The question has been impetus to hundreds of books and articles by the studied in fields as different as psychology and nutrition. Simply, we all need supervision — ­or, as is said in publishing: “every writer needs an editor.”

Unfortunately, we are uncomfortable accepting it, and generally won’t from those we don’t trust. And, we are too often petulant in the belief that guidance means we are not doing our jobs. It often goes like this:

Don, how are you doing with the things we agreed are necessary to growing an understanding of the business in order to satisfy the goals of your department? You know, understanding what the market is doing, how the customer behaves under circumstances, and the technology that informs efficiency.

Don typically replies: Are you saying that I’m not doing my job?

Self-esteem aside, we are so often managing a fragile psyche that we fail to adhere to the principles above that most could recite with ease. Oversight is not only necessary, but is also an opportunity to form the bonds of trust that effective communications provide. The more you talk with others, the better you are at relating to them on a variety of levels. Coupled with a full-disclosure approach, we are better able to assuage hurt feelings, confront issues of conflict, learn the styles and personal goals of others, as well as the cultural underpinnings of unique organizations. Oversight is involvement, not “micro managing.” It is the very essence of relationship in an execution culture.

I’ve heard candidates Obama and Clinton scold Congress for poor decision-making, each making the point that our government is constitutionally bound to operate “for,” “by,” and “of” the people —oversight! They were right in suggesting that the organization they work in has a dysfunctional nature, and that the people of the U.S. are the landlords of this nation — indeed, the overseers of its “doings.”

The principles are clear; perhaps, even next steps. But your part in oversight is needed. Which will you do — accept or provide it? Little else works!

September 13, 2018 |

Pluck

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

It is better to set our aim too high and miss it than to set it too low and hit it, or so said Michelangelo. If organizations are the model of “results in the making,” the propitiation of good plans and execution, it is likely that audacious goals set the mood in them. In fact, it is seldom that anything but “bold moves” will affect the marketplace. Yet, few have the “pluck” to attempt them.

“Pluck” is variously defined as courage or resolution in the face of difficulties. We see it in the decisive and steely resolve of “authentic leaders” everywhere, and in all those who lead successful “any-things.” They include those who raise good families, who go to work each day with a purpose beyond oneself in mind, and who consider that to “affect others for the good” delivers the best results.

In this political season what would Aristotle say to those on the podium about how to persuade? He would say that, aside from “tortures, depositions, and the like,” there are only three ways: “logos, pathos, and ethos.” In simple terms that means, logic, emotion, and character. Put it all together, and you get a reasonable argument, passionately made, by a person you trust. Add “pluck” and you have a compelling package of persuasion.

But what does this have to do with the ROI in building successful organizations? Everything!

In the weeks before the 2008 general election we were introduced to Sarah Palin, a relative unknown, until she was drafted as the vice presidential running mate of John McCain. She made a good impression on America with a clear mind, cleverness, and plain-speaking honesty. She came across as being a “regular person”— a devoted family member, the mother of a special needs child, a passionate believer in country and the hope in its people. She also had “pluck,” that innate confidence in herself that spells a self-assurance and belief system of persuasive value. And, it appears she was successful at affecting others by it. The polls show that America responded in kind.

Sarah Palin is not alone in possessing this all-important ingredient of authentic leaders, revealed in quiet moments by their work and louder by the powerful phrase of action it communicates. Gandhi had it; so too, George Washington and Harry Truman. Hillary Clinton is among those with “pluck,”as was Julia Child and Vince Lombardi. They all had it; they all exerted a persuasive energy that compelled others to greatness on some plane.

John Adams had “pluck.” Known for his acerbic wit and incisive style, he would regularly corral his brethren by steely summary statements of purpose and insight. Among them was the assertion that “the Constitution of the United States is meant for a moral and religious people, and would not work for any other kind.” That’s “pluck,” and not coincidentally, borne out in America’s experience.

The work of organizations — non-profit and commercial alike — requires the best of all to achieve their goals. It requires that we take risks, having the courage to do so with confidence, courage born of self-assurance and belief in the purpose and ideals of our organizations. It requires “pluck.”

Unlike Plato, Aristotle’s mentor, who believed in logos as the only legitimate way to win friends and influence people, Aristotle was willing to look beyond “strictly rational appeals.” Pathos allowed that emotional appeals persuade as well. Thus he wrote: “Style makes a matter more persuasive.” Finally, he wrote: “Character contains almost the strongest proof of all.” Simply, it matters “who” is trying to persuade us. If the person trying to influence us shows “common sense, virtue, and goodwill,” we are more likely to trust in him.

We have learned that “peoples,” those joined with a common goal, have a conservative ethic. While they generally allow the differences in others — a kind of inner security that encourages uniqueness — they hold to a personal ideal that respects integrity, consistent behavior, and decency. They are not anarchists, despite the freedom to speak out about anything of concern. Nor are they pleased to see their own cobbled by drug abuse, unwed pregnancies, or the egregious use of power that corrupts organizations. Ultimately, they forgive most things — a conservative nature.

In forming a “better union” with others it is necessary to exhibit the character that Aristotle extols above. At times it takes courage to do so; it takes “pluck.” If we are to win the battle, in organizations, in government, in life, we do well to form these character traits. We do well to find the heart in matters, as spoken by Theodore Roosevelt, a man of considerable pluck.

Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life. Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.

 

 

 

September 7, 2018 |

Difficult People

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

OK, hands up out there! How many of you have chosen not to take action with a difficult person when you knew it was needed? How many have reacted to another in an angry or non-constructive way? You with your head down—why isn’t your hand up?

Everyone has done both of these things at one time or another. There’s no shame in it. However, if we consistently repeat the same mistakes over and over and end up paying the cost by becoming a victim, we’ve chosen the path to unfulfillment.

So, why do we do it? Why do we choose to be victims? And why is it important to know why we make this choice? Simply, if we don’t know what it is about “difficult people” that causes us to make a poor decision, it isn’t likely we’ll be able to grow out of the “victim” disorder. If we don’t change, we are going to be a consistent victim.

There are a number of reasons why people make bad decisions, avoid taking action, or take inappropriate action. Most have to do with avoidance, while the last is biological and has to do with our initial gut reaction to difficult people and our feelings of threat. Let’s take a look.

Low Self-awareness

If you lack self-awareness (i.e. you don’t know what your own reactions mean and why they occur), you are not likely to have success with difficult people. Not coincidentally, the first step in learning to deal with difficult people is to examine oneself.

It’s important that you look at yourself to identify which of the reasons apply to you. When you are aware of the reasons you choose to be a victim, you will be better prepared to make better, more rational decisions.

An impediment to awareness is “denial.” Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t believe he said that?” It is likely that you have. What we are saying in those words is that our expectation of another does not match well with their actual behavior. One reason we fail to take action with difficult people is we don’t expect them to be difficult. We are caught “off guard.” Most normal people don’t go through life looking for trouble. But when it appears, unexpectedly, such as in outrageous outbursts, we have a tendency to freeze like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. We’re at a loss for words, almost disbelieving what is plainly in sight. We are incredulous over it.

Not only can we freeze up in such moments, but some difficult behavior is so outlandish that we remain stunned by it well after the fact, or we deny it or excuse it as an aberration.

Denial

Believe it! Even the best of people do difficult, hurtful, and unpleasant things to others. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening. If you do, it may just get worse. We are, each of us, capable of the worst behavior imaginable. What keeps us from it varies—societal pressure, the law, moral suasion, inherent goodness, a positive life experience that recommends it, etc. Whatever works to bring each individual under self-control must be as apparent and available as a hammer to drive a nail.

Are you in denial? If so, recognize that people do hurtful, difficult things and that they are indeed real and are happening. To deny what is happening only serves to make the situation worse.

Avoidance

Even when we recognize that someone is being nasty, difficult or unpleasant, we may be reluctant to act because we fear getting involved. Or perhaps, you know that difficult person who argues about everything, and you are tired of him. We think, “If I say something, it’s just going to make matters worse.”

At times, you’d be right. There are times when making something of another’s rage is not only inconvenient, but also dangerous. Consider road rage. If we stop (or speed up) to confront another’s poor behavior on the road we might find ourselves on the receiving end of a weapon in the hands of a fool. The larger picture renders the issue trivial in most road rage incidents, so we go on our way hoping the angry “other” will cool down before hurting someone.

There has to be a happy medium here. We don’t want to jump on every little thing, but we must be prepared to confront real issues of poor behavior. We deserve better, and “help” is what the miscreant needs most. However, if we choose to continually ignore such abuse, we paint ourselves as victims.

Recognize that dealing with a difficult person in a constructive way doesn’t have to mean getting into an argument or a confrontation. Managers must be willing to make people accountable, and not only to agreed upon goals. We work with people, and their willingness and cooperation is necessary to achievement. We need to work at not allowing our dread of confrontation to keep us from taking control of difficult situations.

Bad Cop

Another reason people tend to wait too long to intervene with difficult people has to do with not wanting to come across as the “heavy.” This promotes a poor self-image, something we humans avoid like the plague. This is particularly true of managers who are sensitive to the need to use power sparingly in today’s workplace.

Get over it! We get paid to manage—so manage. Whether it’s someone not doing a good job or interfering with the work of others, or someone polluting the work environment, managers, indeed all stakeholders, have a responsibility to co-workers to act when necessary. You are, in effect, charged with ensuring the welfare of those in your care.

They’ll Do It

There is a tendency in organizations to think that the really tough problems ought to be solved by “them.” It is the great lie in all societies—commercial and familial. We expect it of our politicians, our teachers, our pastors, our bosses, and our parents. Perhaps, this is why 85% of families and 70% of organizations are deemed dysfunctional. If we allow one employee to make life difficult for another, there’s a fair chance that the “victim” will come to blame us, even though we aren’t directly involved. As managers and leaders, we are ultimately responsible for results—at all levels of participation.

Just as “intervening” need not bring about confrontation, stepping in need not make us the bad guys. There is something of value at stake for all involved; reasonable people can come quickly to an understanding of it.

Fight or Flight

The final underlying reason for mishandling difficult situations is the “fight or flight” phenomenon. It’s biological—all animals have it. It works this way; when we are threatened, our bodies react by sending hormones and neurological messages to prepare it to either run away (escape or take flight), or to stand and fight.

It’s these chemical changes in our bodies that cause things like sweating, elevated heart rate, or even shaking during or after perceived danger.

Unfortunately, those same chemical changes, while allowing us to make a quick escape, or a fight of it, also cause quick and destructive verbal responses. So, there’s actually a biological reason why you might speak or react too quickly when dealing with a difficult person.

Fortunately, we can choose not to be slaves to the “flight or flight” thing. We can learn to control ourselves, and even to react less aggressively when in difficult situations. Perhaps, what is most helpful is to accept that the term “difficult people” describes us all, at times. Try first to defend that person’s position, then consider what to do about his behavior. The exercise may give you the empathy necessary to clearing most misunderstandings, and the path to appropriate behavioral modifications.

August 31, 2018 |

Trust—Credibility’s Root

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders—customers, business partners, investors, and co-workers—is the single most important leadership competency. If Stephen Covey Jr., of Franklin Covey, is correct in this conclusion, most organizations have work to do and more to learn in their efforts to succeed.

Trust may simply mean that we have confidence in something, a sense of security that it or someone will do what we expect of it/him. Oddly, a lack of trust—distrust—carries the same expectations as trust. We will either invest ourselves in confidence or caution. We expect trust to encourage confidence, and distrust to encourage caution.

Think of someone you have a high trust in. Describe the relationship; how well do you communicate; how quickly do things get done; how much do you enjoy the relationship?

Now think of someone you have a low-trust relationship with. Describe this relationship. How does it feel; how are the communications between you? The difference between the two is palpable. What we try to avoid is a hint of suspicion. Why? Because the moment it is felt, everything that follows is likely to be tainted.

We hear often that “it is very difficult for a micro manager to change.” Why so difficult? Because breaking habits requires that we replace them with better ones. And then only if we recognize the problem in our behavior—we do not solve problems we don’t have!

And how would we consider, even embrace, another’s changed behavior? TRUST, and the decision to do so is the only lasting way. Everything else is just a conditional and short-term method. Let’s pause to consider why this is so today, in the age of postmodernism.

Roughly between 1960 and 1990 postmodernism emerged as a cultural phenomenon, given impetus largely by the advent of the information age. If the factory is the symbol of the industrial age, the computer may be the symbol of the information age that tracks the spread of postmodernism.

Postmodernism is complex and contradictory in some ways, but most see it as rejecting most of the fundamental intellectual pillars of modern Western civilization. At a minimum, postmodernism regards many important principles, methods, or ideas characteristic of modern Western culture as obsolete and illegitimate. In practical terms postmodernism represents a rejection of the philosophy that has characterized Western thought since the beginning. Let’s take a brief look.

 

The Route to Postmodernism

Ethical Theism Modernism Postmodernism
Truth

 

 

Truth has been revealed to men and women by God. Truth can be discovered by reason and logical argumentation. Truth does not exist objectively; it is a product of a person’s culture.
Human Identity Humans are both spiritual and material   beings, created in God’s image but fallen because of sin. Humans are rational, not spiritual beings who can define their existence according to what their senses perceive. Humans are primarily social beings, products of their culture and environment.
The World God is the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of His earth, and has instructed humans to subdue it and care for it. Humans can and should conquer the earth and all its mysteries. Life on earth is fragile and the “Enlightenment model of human conquest of nature … must quickly give way to a new attitude of cooperation with the earth.”
Thought & Language Reason “can disclose truth about reality, but faith and revelation are also needed.” For answers and understanding about life and the world around us, people should rely only on rational discovery through the scientific method and reject the belief in the supernatural. Thinking is a “social construct,” language is arbitrary, and there is no universal truth beyond culture.
Human Progress Human history is not progressing but awaiting deliverance. Human progress through science and reason is inevitable. Things are not getting better; besides, progress is an oppressive Western concept.

 

The information age has produced so many more “truths” than we have known before. The sheer number of them (revealed) is enough to cause one to freeze in his investigation of them. Under such conditions the truth is made and not found. This is an extraordinary idea, and one that suggests a substitute for it (the truth) in situational ethics. In this vein, if yours are formed (made) of your cultural bias, or conditions, it is no less reality than another’s.

This is because there is no metanarrative or grand story that can account for all reality— no story big enough and meaningful enough to pull together philosophy and research and politics and art, relate them to one another, and give them a unifying sense of direction. Such are the stories of God’s covenant with the nation Israel, the Marxist story of class conflict and revolution, and the Enlightenment’s story of intellectual progress.

What’s that got to do with trust, you might be asking? A great deal, as it turns out. Our society, not just here in the U.S., but the world over, is suffering a crisis of trust. Every societal institution—government, media, business, health care, religion, home—is suffering a paucity of trust. Significantly lower than a generation ago, in the U.S., for instance, a 2005 Harris poll revealed that 22% of those surveyed tend to trust the media, 8% trust political parties, 27% trust the government, and 12% trust big business.

In a study by British sociologist David Halpern, only 34% of Americans believe that “other” people can be trusted. In Latin America the number is 23%; and in Africa the number is just 18%. In Great Britain the number is 29%, down from 60% four decades ago. We are no longer a trusting people. In fact, with the possible exception of the 60s in America, love has never been a popular movement in the world.

Can the postmodernists be that wrong when they claim that the truth we make is more reality than the truth we find?

On the organizational front it’s much the same story:

  • 51% of employees have trust and confidence in senior management.
  • 36% believe their leaders act with honesty and integrity.
  • In the last 18 months 76% of employees have observed illegal or unethical conduct on the job—conduct, which, if exposed, would seriously violate the public trust, if not the law.

What about the personal level? Consider that:

  • The #1 reason people leave their jobs is a bad relationship with their boss.
  • One of every two marriages ends in divorce.

Relationships—of all kinds—are built on and sustained by trust. They fail from the absence of it!

The percentage of students who cheated to improve their odds of getting into graduate school may be a clear indication of whom you are being led by.

  • Liberal arts students — 43%
  • Educations students —  52%
  • Medical students — 63%
  • Law students — 63%
  • Business students — 75%

How does it make you feel to know that the doctor who’s going to operate on you cheated in school? Or that there is a 75% chance that the company you’re going to work for is led by someone who didn’t consider honesty important? Further, that 75% of MBAs were willing to understate expenses that would cut into profits; and worse, that minimum-security prisoners scored as high as MBA students on their ethical dilemma exams.

Talk about a crisis of trust!

The economics of trust are simple:

 

TRUST = SPEED COST

So what must we do to reverse the trend? We must learn to TRUST; to see, talk, and act, in ways that establish, grow, extend, and restore trust … with all stakeholders.

It’s up to us, each of us, to make a difference in an untrusting world. But we won’t solve a problem we don’t have; so, first we must believe that there is value in doing just that. Most don’t!

August 24, 2018 |

Influencers: The Devil’s in the Data

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ROI by Frank J. Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Frank J. Rich

 

 

Influence over others is among the most important assets of a leader—a bold statement in a world preoccupied with individual rights. With influence a leader can implement new initiatives, increase efficiency, and effectively encourage productivity and change. But with so much information inundating the workplace, whose influence is being felt? Perhaps wisdom concedes to brute force in this case, but what is a knowledge worker to do? How do we regain our influence as leaders in a maelstrom of data? “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” is the answer.

The secret lies in the data stream, the information we are exposed to daily, according to Ron McMillan and David Maxfield in their book, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. “The more information people are exposed to, the more they assume that information is correct and give it priority,” they concluded.

The idea naturally follows the law of mental equivalency, which suggests that our thoughts objectify our behavior. For example, when we read over and over that nuclear power generation is bad (too risky to tolerate), we begin to believe that it must be so because “everyone says so.” Yet, in this time of escalating fuel prices, nuclear power is revealed as a cleaner, less costly, and more efficient power generation system than most others. It is potentially dangerous, but not nearly as risky as riding a bike, which accounts for 700-800 deaths each year.

The data stream, it would appear, has become the overwhelmingly greatest influencer in society. Take this simple test to see how it has affected your thinking.

  • Is someone in the U.S. more likely to die from lung cancer or from a road accident?
  • Is a person more likely to die from tuberculosis or from a fire?
  • Does the English language have more words that begin with the letter “k” or more words that have “k” in the third position?

The Answers…

So, what are the answers and why does it matter? Three times more people die from lung cancer than from road accidents. Twice as many people die from TB than from fires. And, there are twice as many words with “k” in the third position than with “k” in the first.

Most people miss these, even though the rates of occurrence between the pairings aren’t even close. Why is that?

Tversky and Kahneman used these questions to illuminate a judgment strategy they called the availability heuristic. It shows that we judge frequency by recalling a few examples, then noticing how hard they are to bring to mind. Perhaps this contributes to the common use of the term “they” when we cannot find the facts about things. Think of the last few times you’ve heard of someone dying in a car wreck or from lung cancer. If we recall more car wrecks, then we guess they happen more often.

The reason most people get the answers to these particular questions wrong, the authors conclude, “is because our data stream doesn’t reflect reality. If your information comes from newspapers, for example, a typical newspaper has 42 articles about road accidents for every one article about lung cancer. This ‘informational influence’ would lead you to believe more deaths occur from car accidents.”

Consider this tidbit from Knowledge News to illustrate the point.

The basic player in summer heat is, you guessed it, the sun. It must be a lot closer to us in the summer than in the winter, right? Not true.

Actually, with the Earth’s elliptical orbit, we’re closest to the sun in January and farthest from it in July. So the reason we get scorched is not because we’ve cozied up to the celestial furnace. No—summer comes from the tilt of the Earth, which affects the intensity and duration of sunlight we get hit with throughout the year.

Astronomically, Earth’s a little off-kilter, rotating on its axis at an incline, or tilt, of 23.5 degrees. Why the La-Z-Boy position? Scientists think that sometime early on, Earth got absolutely clobbered by a Mars-sized protoplanet in a spectacular collision of worlds. That collision knocked Earth into a tilted rotational axis.

Earth stays in this 23.5-degree tilt no matter where it is in its annual orbit around the sun. In fact, the northern end of the Earth’s tilted axis more or less points toward the same place in space throughout the year—at Polaris, the aptly named North Star. Whichever hemisphere leans toward the sun gets pool parties and picnics. The other hemisphere hauls out parkas.

So why do we think the sun is closer in summer? Because since childhood it’s what most people told us. The data stream rules again.

Similarly, organizations have their own data stream. In the workplace, the data stream is comprised of reports, e-mails, charts, posters, and other information that sets the “mental agenda” of the organization. Not surprisingly, most organizations are clogged with vagrant data, making a coherent message or mental agenda challenging. Additionally, few leaders use their influence over an organization’s data stream to their advantage. This is largely because their messages compete with a barrage of others.

The How To

Research on project execution (by Tversky and Kahneman) corroborates the view that our data stream determines project thinking and actionables. When we leave these to others we lose direction and the usefulness of the data. As above, we also lose touch with the essential activity in our environment and often underestimate its effect on us.

One such study by the authors (Silence Fails) heard senior leaders report that “project managers are sometimes given plans that are nearly impossible to execute, but they didn’t think this potentially fatal problem occurs often, though it is resolved quickly when it does. When surveyed, 85% of project managers confirmed receiving such ‘fact-free’ plans frequently, but only 17% were able to discuss and resolve them quickly, if at all.”

The reason is no mystery; project managers (like so many managers) fear loss of status and support resulting from open discussion of the problem.  So what do they recommend to manage the data stream for more effective use of it? Simply, focus it on the organizational and market elements that produce the greatest return-on-investment. For each organization that may be different. So start with the basics. Set metrics that improve customer satisfaction—on time delivery, anticipating needs, 1:1 follow-up to register satisfaction, giving a little to get more in return. In other words, perfecting the relationship through trust building.

Leaders have a significant influence on employee retention—85% of those who leave a job do so because of a problem with their bosses. Try adding employee retention rates to managers’ files and watch the retention rates go up.

Leaders lead by serving— but with an undirected data stream we leave the leading to others. Start by taking control of the data stream.

 

 

 

August 17, 2018 |
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