Uniformity Versus Diversity

Uniformity versus diversity

Uniformity Versus Diversity

What is stronger: uniformity or diversity? Pundits upset about the lack of ruthlessness in Game of Thrones’ latest episode are missing a better point about leadership.

[Spoiler alert] Episode 2 led watchers to gird themselves for the death of beloved characters. After all, who could forget season 1 in which Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark met their unexpected demise? Who would it be this time — Danaerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, Varys, Sansa, Arya? All of them survived, winning the epic battle against the Night King.

The end of the Night King sets up a more interesting struggle between Team Targaryen and Queen Cersei. This struggle pits uniformity against diversity.

Good fiction prompts us to question conventional wisdom. The upcoming struggle gives us an opportunity to explore the limits of uniformity and diversity.

There is no “I” in Targaryen

Team Targaryen represents diversity — there is no “I” in Targaryen. Daenerys has encouraged debate among her counselors, permitted them to challenge her thinking, and empowered some questionable leaders who have unexpectedly risen to the occasion.

The coalition fought as one against the Night King, but that epic threat masked an emerging leadership struggle as the North refuses to bow to Daenerys and will only follow Jon Snow. The latter’s revelation as the last surviving male Targaryen complicates questions of power and authority.

The Symbol of Uniformity

Cersei, meanwhile, is the symbol of uniformity. It’s her way or the highway. Even her brother and lover, Jamie, left for Team Targaryen when Cersei’s demands became too much to stomach. She is systematically shedding all naysayers and anyone not fully prepared to obey.
After seeing the seven kingdoms tear each other apart, Cersei sees strength in uniformity. She believes they can act faster and strike more decisively than the Targaryen coalition and hold together in the face of adversity.

Team Targaryen

I’ll be watching to see how Team Targaryen’s leader team adjusts in the face of diverging interests. Jon Snow’s ability as a Reconciler in keeping the coalition together and gaining consensus on a shared vision and strategy will be essential for success. Can Daenerys set aside fears of being displaced and empower Jon to play that role? Team Targaryen will also need the ideas of Tyrion (Maverick) and the systematic thinking a Varys (Operator) to create blind spots for Cersei and exploit them.

Team Cersei

I’ll also be watching to see how Cersei (Maverick) attempts to create and exploit fissures within Team Targaryen. Her best strategy is to get her opponents to paralyze themselves. Cersei is brilliant, but can she anticipate and neutralize her opponent’s creativity while acting decisively faster than they can? Will she listen to wise counsel that challenges her thinking?

More broadly, well-crafted fiction can help us explore the conditions that can turn diversity into unity and prevent uniformity from blindness and insensitivity.

What to learn

Want to learn more about balanced leader teams and ways to turn diversity into a strength? Take our “Which Team Targaryen Leader Are You” quiz. Find out which Game of Thrones leader leads like you and how to bring out the best in yourself and others.

Which Team Targaryen Game of Thrones Leader are you?

Which Game of Thrones Leader are You?

Winter is coming. The Game of Thrones final season is upon us. Did you know that Daenerys Targaryen, Tyrion Lannister, Jon Snow, and Lord Varys represent the four main leader-personas? 

This gives Daenerys a balanced leader team and a big advantage in the coming war. 

Take our assessment to find out which leader in the Targaryen team you most closely resemble.

P.S. Be on the lookout for our Team Cersei assessment and our analysis of the coming war.

3 Ways to Tell if Your Culture is Killing Your Organization

  1. Is your annual turnover higher than 20 percent? Hiring a new employee could cost as much as 50% to 200% of their annual salary.
  2. Do you have toxic leaders or employees? Workplace incivility costs an estimated $14,000 per affected employee.
  3. Is your workplace culture out of step with your strategy? If so, your team is underperforming. This is part of the reason most strategies are never executed.
Workplace Culture Economics

Culture eats talent for breakfast

“Culture,” the late management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “eats strategy for breakfast.” I like to see them as two essential courses, along with leadership, of a 3-course meal. Two out of three is not good enough. A poor culture will undermine a good strategy and drive out good leaders. Poor leadership will damage a solid culture and strategy. A bad strategy will impede the growth of a well-led team.

Culture eats talent for breakfast … and spits out anything it does not like. Talent that matches culture becomes part of the organization. Talent that does not fit gets rejected.

Here’s the trick: your workplace culture is not the same as your workplace values. The culture is defined by what actually occurs at work — hour-by-hour, day in and day out.

Organizations that focus their hiring practices on talent tend to have workplace cultures that grow organically — regardless of the official values that hang on the walls. Hire competitive talent and you will get a competitive culture, even if your official values champion cooperation and collaboration. Hire cooperative talent and your push for a competitive workplace will find resistance. Hire talent that is at odds with your values and you will eventually have a toxic culture.

One former client, James Cook Media, was experiencing an annual turnover of around 100 percent. This fast-paced, innovative company, was hiring highly talented people. The problem was that the new hires expected a steady rather than dynamic work environment. The revolving door was a massive drain on revenues that were bankrupting the company.

We help define culture.  We get results.

We helped them define their culture and the types of employees that would best fit. They began making culture fit their top priority. This dramatically reduced turnover and helped save the company from bankruptcy.

The American Association of Suicidology was experiencing declining revenues. Their dedicated employees had low levels of engagement due to poor strategic direction. When Colleen Creighton took over as the Executive Director in 2017, she recognized the need for a proper strategy. We worked together on this with the board of directors. Once approved, we coached the staff to develop a business plan to implement the new strategy. In effect, the staff was creating their own work-plans for the year.

Employee engagement rose from about 40 to 80 percent — with significant impacts on greater revenue, lower costs, and higher levels of initiative.

Here are three quick ways to check if your culture is damaging your organization:

  1. Is your annual turnover higher than 20%?
  2. Do employees report workplace toxicity?
  3. Are your culture and strategy aligned?

According to one study, poor culture fit accounted for 89 percent of hires let go within 18 months.  

Use our workplace culture quiz to help you identify the ideal culture for your organization, so you can specify values that make sense and improve your hiring practices.

 

Leader Development is Like Gardening

Leader development is like gardening

Leader Development is Like Gardening

I was struck recently by a Harvard Business Review article called “The Feedback Fallacy” by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall. The authors rightly criticized the faddishness of so-called radical candor and radical transparency, noting that such critical feedback is often counterproductive (and may be used as an excuse for office bullying and toxic behavior). The authors also caution that performance feedback can be idiosyncratic, revealing biases of the person giving feedback.

Instead of providing critical comments, the authors argue that leaders should focus on what each person does right and encourage them to do more of it.

This approach has its merits. To be sure, recognizing when people are doing something right is good for morale and self-esteem. People are more inclined to repeat and improve upon their natural strengths than to spend time and energy improving perceived weaknesses.

At the same time, I know I get better when my speaking coach, Jan Fox, tells me to stop doing X and to do more of Y. She’s tough, but always supportive. She helps me improve what I do well while also helping me tackle my problem areas. Would you want a speaking coach who ignored your “ums” and “you knows”?

Jan’s approach is best summarized by what Strategic Leaders Academy business owner John O’Grady calls gardening – you help the person amplify their natural strong points and prune away what impedes growth and performance.

The key to doing this well is by focusing on improvement without trying to turn someone into something they’re not. No amount of feedback, for instance, will transform an extrovert into an introvert; no amount of coaching will change a detail-oriented person into a visionary. Demands that someone become a different person are counterproductive.

This is the idiosyncratic problem noted by the HBR authors: leaders tend to try to clone themselves; that is, their feedback can be aimed at making the employee become more like the supervisor. This approach only works when the employee has natural inclinations that are similar to those of the supervisor. For everyone else, the feedback is ineffective and often causes resentment. Over time, you can imagine how this damages diversity and balance in the organization.

Proper gardening – proper leader development – is a process.

It begins with knowing yourself and your employees. Knowing ourselves helps guard against idiosyncratic feedback and promotes diversity and balance. Knowing our employees helps us to provide feedback and developmental experiences that are most likely to bring out the best in each person and to prune away problem areas.

Our leader-persona assessment is a good first step to becoming a proper gardener for your employees. Knowing each employee’s leader-persona will enable you to help them be the best Operator, Reconciler, Maverick or Pioneer they can be. You will also reduce the tendency to provide morale-damaging idiosyncratic feedback.

Forge Balanced Teams
Take our leader-persona assessment below

“Our employee engagement improved from about 40% to 80%, thanks to Chris’ support.” Colleen Creighton, Executive Director, American Association of Suicidology.

Let’s discuss ways we can help you have positive outcomes, too.

Pro Tips:

  • Amplify your Operators’ strengths in planning and execution. Give them the tools they need to excel at these tasks and to hold people accountable. Don’t needle them about needing to be more visionary or more outgoing or to speak more during meetings. Do, however, address behaviors that may come across as badgering or clinging to a problematic status quo.
  • Amplify your Reconcilers’ strengths in teamwork and consensus-building. Empower them to iron out differences among teams or teammates. Don’t pester them about needing to be more innovative or a better planner. Do, however, address tendencies toward watering down issues, status quo bias, or running themselves ragged trying to please everyone.
  • Amplify your Mavericks’ strengths in solving wicked problems. Give them important issues to address and the license to pursue new ideas and solutions. They will need Operators and Reconcilers to keep those solutions feasible and grounded in reality. Avoid criticizing them on attention to detail or not being sufficiently enthusiastic in social gatherings. Do help them address challenges associated with aloofness, impatience, and impracticality.
  • Amplify your Pioneers’ innovative strengths. Encourage them to challenge the status quo and to come up with ways to push the envelope of performance. Make sure Operators are nearby to keep their ideas prioritized and practical. Avoid beating them up about attention to detail or planning. Do help them address issues associated with a lack of prioritization and overloading people in good ideas.

Follow these guidelines and be better at delivering helpful, thoughtful, and productive feedback to your team.

Eat More Chicken

A Veteran’s Observations of Army-Navy 2018…Eat more Chicken

Thank you, Chick-fil-a!

It’s always one of the first Saturdays in December. While the stadium might change occasionally (88 of 119 have been in Philadelphia), it is also almost always a blustery-cold winter day. A few other things are also always a constant. The Naval Academy’s Midshipmen and Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets are always in full attendance, and will conduct one of the most impressive march-on events ever witnessed. And, no matter what either team’s season has been, the slate is washed clean when it comes to these two teams taking the field. This was the 119th Army-Navy rivalry match-up, and it was no different than the 118 that preceded this one. Both teams prepare all season for this one game, and they leave nothing to spare–everything is left on the field.

This was one of many of the Army-Navy games I have watched in my own 26+ years of serving in the military, but only the sixth I have actually had the privilege of attending. Let me just say, it was one of the most special, and if the picture above and title don’t give a hint as to why, I will explain.

There were a couple of things that were different this year that made the 119th Army-Navy Game one of the most memorable of any game ever, and it was all because Chick-fil-A did what it does so well: going the second mile (and beyond)!

Observation 1: An External perspective.

This year, Chick-fil-A, which has been a proud supporter of the Army football team, went “all in” on hosting an amazing event. The Army-Navy Watch Party. Just 15 minutes north of Lincoln Financial Stadium, Chick-fil-A reserved the 23rd Street Armory, built out its mobile pop-up restaurant, and filled it with enough seating for easily 500 people. All this was to not play favorites–Army or Navy– but to bring the two veteran sides together, recognizing each and every veteran as an equal, and thanking them in ways that words marginally do justice. The Chick-fil-A Director of Military Relations was personally handing out excellence coins with an engaging handshake, a sincere smile, and a “thank you for your service.” The Director of Marketing was on sight personally ensuring everything was saying what it was intended to say in just the right way. And, in addition to executive leaders from within Chick-fil-A, they hired a host of talented team members to engage, videotape, photograph, and thank the veteran audience that turned out.

Chick-fil-A decked out the Armory out with two huge flat screen televisions, a turf mini-football field, and even a marching band! As the crowd began to pour in at 1 PM, the maestro engaged them right away in fun activities like Simon SaysRock-paper-scissors face-offs, dance-offs, and more. And they were certainly not left wanton, as Chick-fil-A was providing its iconic chicken sandwiches, sweet tea, and fresh-squeezed lemonade at the window. How much you ask? All free! What’s more, Chick-fil-A recognized some 10 veterans and their families with the biggest surprise of all–tickets to the game. Sweet enough deal, right? Well, how about on-field passes, and a limousine ride to boot? Talk about a memorable experience…and all Chick-fil-A’s way of saying “thank you.” Well, as a veteran myself, I have to say, “thank you!” What I saw was simply beautiful, and it was all done in a top-notch, positive way, bringing Army and Navy, (as well as some Air Force and Marine Corps folks) together to share in the historic game.

Observation 2: A unique internal perspective.

What I witnessed as just a spectator and veteran should be enough for you to understand what made this Army-Navy more special than any other, but what I have to share in my second observation expresses what made the whole event and day so special for me personally. First, I was able to share the day with someone who a mentor introduced me to. I spent the day getting to know a man who is a leader-legend in his own right. Being with this humble hero is what truly enabled me to clearly see and experience this second observation. I was able to see firsthand the selfless team that came out to make this whole event so special. Several Owner-Operators, many veterans themselves, came from all over the country at Chick-fil-A’s bequest to provide the unmatched support and leadership necessary to make such a special event happen. Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia, North Carolina. The amount of planning, time, consideration, and resources that went in to make this day happen was evident everywhere you turned!

One of Chick-fil-A’s National mobile kitchens was on site making hot, juicy sandwiches in no time flat! A team of probably 75-100 folks helped set-up, execute, and clean up when it was all said and done. A top-notch event, executed and overseen with the utmost precision and care.

I found myself humbled

Unbeknown to me, I found myself humbled with the great privilege of being able to tag along with a couple of the Chick-fil-A Corporate leaders who were ensuring all was going as planned, and what I saw was simply awesome. They were engaging veterans, making time to talk to cadets, midshipmen, and senior military leaders alike to reiterate their gratitude and provide in any way they could for those they came in contact with. It was more apparent than ever to me how important an organization’s culture is to the success of an organization. For me, Chick-fil-A’s one-in-million way of service made this Army-Navy one of my most memorable experiences. And its because they not only focus on the big things but the little things too…and they do it all with a spirit of excellence and gratitude.

The game ended (happily for me) 17-10, with Army taking the victory, as well as the coveted Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy home. Both teams have much of which to be proud, because this day is always so much bigger than the game itself, but at the same time, for three hours, it is ALL about the game itself, in a good old-fashioned family rivalry.

As one veteran said so astutely as I listened, “Only 3 hours on a Saturday does the Army and the Navy go at it like this–otherwise, we are brothers and sisters in arms, willing to fight and die for one another given the chance.” Amen to that! If one has never served, that may seem foreign, but I assure you, it could not be truer. The Army-Navy game represents everything that is good. The guts, the grit, the determination, the resilience, and professionalism of an all-volunteer military, of which we, as a Nation, can surely be proud. The Army-Navy game is just a slight representation of what is special about our Nation’s sons and daughters that decide to serve, and it was an even more special Army-Navy to see a Corporate team-mate like Chick-fil-A come alongside and share in the occasion. Thank you. And to those soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who continue to serve and may even this day be in harm’s way to protect our freedoms, we thank you!

Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions expressed herein are the author’s own, and do not in any way express the views, opinions, or expressed interests of the U.S. Armed Forces, the United States Army, nor Chick-fil-A, Inc.

By: Erik Kober, Owner Kober Strategic Leader Consulting

The Four People your Team Needs to Succeed

The Four People Your team Needs to Succeed

To grow sustainably, every team needs four critical people.

With them, your team has the right balance to execute, solve problems, innovate, and maintain harmony. Without this balance, an organization is vulnerable. These four people are the Operator, the Maverick, the Pioneer, and the Reconciler.

We derived these four archetypes by overlaying two critical characteristics: introversion versus extroversion and detail versus vision-orientation. These characteristics provide distinctive inclinations that reveal the roles in which people are likely to thrive.

Forge Balanced Teams
Forge balanced Teams

Operators are mission-focused.

They nail the details and hold people accountable. They help you execute to a high standard.

Mavericks like to question the status quo and solve chronic, wicked problems.

They help you avoid complacency and keep your focus on the issues that matter.

Pioneers love to rally people behind new ideas and innovations.

They will help you recognize emerging threats and seize opportunities.

Reconcilers are natural team-builders.

They know how to manage processes and to gain and maintain consensus. They keep egos in check and harmony on your team.

History provides some great examples.

George Washington, an Operator, built a balanced team as head of the Continental Army and later as our America’s first President [Hamilton (the Maverick); Jefferson (the Pioneer); and Knox (the Reconciler)].

Building America
Building America

Abraham Lincoln, a Reconciler, had a “Team of Rivals” [Stanton (the Operator); Chase (the Maverick); and Seward (the Pioneer)].

Winning the Civil War
Winning the Civil War

During World War Two, Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight Eisenhower, a Reconciler, carefully cultivated and maintained his balanced team [Bradley (the Operator); Montgomery (the Maverick); Patton (the Pioneer)] that, together with the Soviets, defeated Nazi Germany.

Winning World War II
Winning World War II

What happens if your team does not have all four?

Google is a good example. In the 1990s, founders Larry Page (Maverick) and Sergei Brin (Pioneer) excited many investors with their breakthrough ideas. They, however, could not make the business work. At the insistence of the investors, they brought onboard Eric Schmidt (Reconciler), and Jon Rosenberg (Operator) as CEO and Senior VP. Google became one of the most successful companies in history.

Google's Balanced Team
Google’s Balanced Team

Key Tips:

1.  Hire intentionally – make sure you have all four represented and empowered
2.  Assign people to roles that enable them to thrive. Most vision people can do details, and vice versa, but doing so drains their energy faster.
3.  Check to see if you have a balanced team (take our quiz below). If not and you cannot bring someone in to fill the role, then consider hiring a consultant or adviser. You can also ask someone on your team to play the role, but you will need to find ways to address that their energy may drain faster.

Which American President Are You?

Which American President are You?

These American Presidents lead with authenticity. When you know your leader archetype, you are empowered to become the best version of yourself. When you learn the archetypes of others, you can coach them to be the best version of themselves. Which American President are you?

Which Hall of Fame NFL Coach are You?

Which Hall of Fame NFL Coach are You?

Find out what NFL Hall of Fame coach shares your leader-persona

Take our 9 question quiz. Share it with your team and compare results. Do you have key leaders among all 4 types?

Authenticity

 

Authenticity – It Begins with Self-Awareness

Gosh, I tried hard to be an extrovert. I’d bought into the idea that the best leaders were extroverts. I convinced myself that I needed to work the room, be energetic ALL THE TIME, and be the life of the event. It exhausted me and, frankly, I wasn’t very good at it. I made some key mistakes along the way.

Extroverts are people who get their energy from being around other people. Introverts, by contrast, recharge their batteries when they are alone or with people who are close to them.

Sure, there were plenty of times when I felt highly energized being around people. I loved being with my soldiers and with people who shared common interests and aspirations. But being with a bunch of people outside those parameters was hard for me. I preferred chatting with one or two people rather than try to small-talk my way to meet everybody.

I still envy those who can work the room and speak with everyone effortlessly. It’s just not me.

I learned after much study that extroverts have not necessarily cornered the market on good people skills and that introverts do not automatically lack charisma. Some extroverts can be boorish jerks just like some introverts can be reclusive. Extroverts can be engaging and introverts can be inspiring. Extroverts and introverts can be great leaders.

Like many non-shy introverts, I’m what people call a situational extrovert. I get energized being around people in certain contexts.

I also tend to enjoy working through complex issues —precisely why I find a place like Afghanistan so compelling.

I know that nailing the details is essential for any solution to work. I could do the details well, but the process would exhaust me. As a leader, I always found that having detail-oriented people around me made me better, enhanced my energy, and improved our team.

All this makes me what we call a Maverick; that is, a visionary introvert. My comfort zone is nerding-out on wicked problems like the Afghan peace process, or helping organizations with culture and strategy, or creating a business franchise so former senior military professionals can build a thriving consulting business. To make any of these endeavors work, I need Operators, Reconcilers, and Pioneers to complete our team.

Over the past 30 years of leading people and teams, I’ve seen great leaders among all personas. What do they all have in common? Authenticity. Authentic leaders are comfortable in their own skin and willing together put a diverse team.

Authenticity starts with self-awareness. Do you know your leader persona?

To help you see yourself, we designed a simple, 8-question quiz based on our leadership and behavioral sciences research. You will discover your leader-persona and what it means. You can sign up to receive highly-personalized information that will help you build diverse and balanced teams that get the best from yourself and others.

Why waste time in jobs that suck you dry? Imagine what happens to productivity when you match the talent on your team to the roles that suit them best.

What was the cost when your team:

  • missed a critical detail?
  • missed an opportunity?
  • failed to anticipate a change in the market?
  • unintentionally damaged a key relationship?

Go ahead, take the quiz and share it with your team. See how well balanced your team is and if any gaps exist. Learn how to make the most of your natural inclinations and to bring the best out of others.

Creating a winning culture: the Cleveland Browns

CREATING A WINNING CULTURe

3 Things You Can Learn From The Cleveland Browns

What I learned talking with the team before their big win on Sunday.

Changing the culture

The Cleveland Browns won big on Sunday – their first road win since 2015 and first back-to-back win since 2014.

What’s changed recently? The coaching staff, now led by interim Head Coach Gregg Williams, is creating a winning culture based on Discipline, Accountability, and Focus. The team is starting to believe.

His assessment of what had been undermining the Browns’ performance: it’s not the talent, it’s the culture that needed to be fixed.

I see many small businesses and nonprofits grapple with culture challenges, too. Gregg’s approach is very practical and effective.

Discipline, Accountability, and Focus have been his watchwords.

Gregg asked me to talk to the team about creating a winning culture on November 24th, the day before meeting their in-state rival in Cincinnati.

Discipline, Accountability, and Focus

I told the story of how Bulldog Troop went from being our most troubled team in 2005 to our best by 2007. This was thanks to the extraordinary leadership of Captains Nathan Springer and Tom Bostick.

Both of them believed in Discipline, Accountability, and Focus.

  1. Discipline: doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.
  2. Accountability: holding one another to the highest standard.
  3. Focus: every repetition, drill, decision matters. Make each one count.
Creating a winning culture

Do this 1-60-24. Make each 1 count, every minute, every hour. Turn these winning hours into winning days. Turn winning days into winning weeks. Turn winning weeks into winning months. That’s how an organization builds a winning culture.

And that’s exactly what Nathan Springer and Tom Bostick did.

This culture of winning was tested in Afghanistan, under dire circumstances. On July 27, 2007, Tom Bostick was killed in action leading his paratroopers during a massive firefight.

So many times, the loss of the leader in combat leads to a unit disintegrating. But not for B Troop. The lieutenants and sergeants took charge and continued taking the fight to the enemy. Their willingness to step up, believe in themselves and their training, and finish the fight saved many lives that day.

Joey Hutto continued this culture of winning when he took command of the Bulldogs. Based on what we learned, we adapted our strategy and began to win over the people. The result: a large insurgent group stopped fighting and eventually joined the Afghan government.

The insurgent leader and his men are now fighting on the side of the government against the Taliban. This outcome may be the biggest win since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

The Cleveland Browns could see themselves in this story. Their response was overwhelming. It gave them one more reason to believe their instincts: Discipline, Accountability, and Focus – 1-60-24 – is how teams create a winning culture.

The Browns are doing just that. It’s a long and bumpy road requiring persistence and hiring people who fit the culture.

Small businesses and nonprofits

How does this affect small businesses and nonprofits?

The words may be a little different, but the concept is the same.

  • Set clear expectations about performance and values (discipline)
  • Hold employees accountable to meet them
  • Be held accountable to your team for setting expectations, strategy, and development
  • Make every task and decision purposeful and make them count (focus)

Do that 1-60-24 and you will get a winning culture.

“The discipline has been great,” veteran center JC Tretter told the media Monday. “It’s something we desperately needed…[Williams] has reined everybody in and gotten everybody focused on one single goal.”

The level of clarity Gregg Williams achieves with his message of Discipline, Accountability, and Focus has given his team confidence and on-field competence. They are beginning to believe in themselves.

Your team can do the same.