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How do you get time for training in one of the fastest moving environments around? And, how do you gain people’s attention when your company is literally processing the world in real-time?

Simple: You build stronger relationships based on a common language that speeds communication, improves collaboration, and gets better business results. And that’s what’s happening @Twitter.


Twitter chose the SDI because it gives people a powerful common language. And it’s not just because “Blue” is only four characters. Although “a person who is deeply concerned about the welfare of others and wants to help them” does take up 83 characters. “Blue” saves space and time, but it also increases clarity and shared understanding.

The colors (shorthand for personality types in the SDI) make it easy for people to quickly recognize what’s driving others. The colors, and deep meaning behind them, also help to dispel the incorrect interpersonal judgements that get in the way in fast-moving environments.

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Why Have an Open Door if You Have a Closed Mind?

open door policy

3 Reasons to Embrace Differing Perspectives Many, if not most, organizations establish an open door policy to give employees the freedom to speak freely with managers and executives throughout the organization, without the need to follow the chain-of-command. It’s not uncommon to hear a division head or senior vice president proclaim to a group of new hires during their orientation, “Remember, my door is always open to you—don’t hesitate to share your ideas and concerns with me at any time.” While these invitations often come with good intentions that elicit a warm response from wide-eyed recruits, there are usually a few more seasoned folks in the room who cringe at the thought of walking into an executive’s office to state their disagreement with a policy decision or new strategy, or express concern over a process that isn’t working as well as it should. In some cases, this response is conditioned by previous experiences—those times when openly expressing doubt about a boss’ brilliant idea turned out to be the equivalent of charging headfirst into a brick wall. This is especially true when career-limiting effects linger much longer than the pain of the initial collision. In a workshop I regularly lead, I...

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Manage Me, Not My Generation


5 Ideas to Bring Out the Best in Each Person With as many as five generations now inhabiting the workplace, there is a lot of attention focused on the unique characteristics of each group. Scholars, management gurus, and seemingly every front-line supervisor in the company cafeteria has advice on navigating these generational differences. While clearly many of these differences are real (i.e., my son is more comfortable with technology than my parents), I’m not sure that the intense focus on managing the generations differently is really the best path forward. Recent research confirms my suspicions. In fact, the researchers found evidence to dispute several commonly held views about managing the generations. For example, the perception that younger generations long to pour themselves into projects that give them a sense of purpose in life was labeled a myth. Instead, they simply want assignments that challenge and excite them. Likewise, this research found that younger employees aren’t hyper-focused on work-life balance as much as they want opportunities to grow and advance in their careers, and to be given some autonomy in terms of how they complete tasks. Another myth busted is the idea that managers must master generational-specific management skills to be...

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Too Expensive to Ignore

costs of conflict

3 Costs of Conflict that Add Up Quickly My jaw dropped when I heard her response. Her colleagues asked in near-unison, “Are you sure?” The woman’s response was measured and firm. “Of course, I’m sure. I’m a CPA; I can do the math.” Silence blanketed the room as the magnitude set in. A series of interpersonal conflicts in the firm had apparently led to $11 million in costs and the departure of several highly valued employees. The news seemed to stun even those who were fully aware of the events that began several months ago. Events that played out in the form of complaints to Human Resources, bungled investigations, resignations, an expensive legal settlement, and the loss of seven key accounts representing millions in annual revenue for the firm. As the facilitator of the meeting, I saw that something powerful was happening and waited for the team members to engage. Finally, after a few more moments of silence, an executive who had previously stood and was now leaning against the conference room wall, said somberly, “Conflict is too expensive to ignore. I hope it’s not too late to do something.” This is a cautionary tale I’ve encountered dozens of times...

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3 Keys to Becoming a More Inspiring Leader

  Only slightly more than half (55 percent) of employees report that their leaders inspire them, according to Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study. Maybe this statistic does not surprise you or feel like a mandate for immediate action, but if you’re a leader or aspire to be one someday, it should be a loud wake-up call. Here’s why: According to the research, a leader’s ability to inspire employees is the strongest driver of employee engagement. That is, how invested and productive your people are largely depends on your ability to connect with and motivate them. Since this study suggests that only 40 percent of employees are highly engaged, we can all politely agree, with no fingers pointed,  that maybe there’s some room for improvement Surprisingly, though, I don’t encounter many leaders who are actively working on becoming more inspiring. This might be because of the way inspirational leaders have been portrayed in movies and how we quickly dismiss that type of behavior as being beyond our reach. After all, few can imagine themselves standing on the stage in front of a huge American flag delivering a fiery speech as George C. Scott did in the 1970 movie, Patton. Further, who...

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What the Norwegians Know

Three Questions to Make You Relationally Ready My first trip this year was to Norway. Undoubtedly, Norway is a beautiful place filled with delightful people; however, for a guy who has spent the majority of his life in southern California, Oslo in January is ridiculously cold! The snow and ice that covered every outdoor surface, and the scarce sun, made me marvel at the hearty souls who call this country home. Recognizing that I was far out of my element, a gregarious Norwegian in a coffee shop asked how I was enjoying my trip. My response, although generally positive, included some derisive commentary about the weather. Seeing his chance to create a learning opportunity for this first-time visitor, my new friend hit me with a saying that every native knows: There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. I smiled at this Scandinavian proverb, and then shuffled off to drink my coffee next to the radiator. As I sipped the warm provision, I began to think about the power of this statement and the mindset behind it. I quickly realized there was a bigger lesson in this that I needed to apply more broadly in my life. The...

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An Olympian’s View on Teamwork

  It’s not every day you meet an Olympian, so when I recently sat down with three-time Olympic medalist Susann Bjerkrheim, I was immediately intrigued and impressed. Bjerkrheim was the face of Norway’s women’s handball team for over two decades, competing in four Olympic Games and leading the team to medals in the '88 Seoul, '92 Barcelona, and '00 Sydney games. She also captained the team when they won trophies in three world championships and two European championships. Now, I’ll admit I didn’t know much about modern handball when we started our conversation. My playing experience was limited to a few games in gym class, mostly when it was raining, and we couldn’t run laps outside—as my sadistic PE teacher preferred. Talking with Susann, I gained a respect and appreciation for the game’s emphasis on strategy and teamwork, and I began to understand why it’s so popular throughout Europe. A quick handball primer: the rules are fairly simple. The game is played on what looks like an indoor soccer field with seven players on each team—six field players and a goalie. Players attempt to put the ball in the opposing team’s net to score. There is a good deal of...

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Five Questions to Maximize Your Learning

  "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." Benjamin Franklin Many of us experience life at a sprinter’s pace. We jump from one task or activity to the next without giving much thought to its purpose or how it fits into the bigger picture. I suspect that’s often the case when it comes to training and development as well. We show up in a classroom or complete an online course because we’re told it’s required. We don’t want to let anyone down or suffer the consequences of not following orders, so we show up, sign in, and check the box—without taking anything of value away from the experience. Other times, we proactively sign up for a class because the description is appealing. It promises to give us the ability to do our jobs better, solve problems, get ahead, or learn new skills that will open doors of opportunity. Despite our good intentions to reap these wonderful benefits, upon our departure from the session, we’re smacked in the face by reality—those urgent matters that pull us back to business as usual—so we never recognize the full value of a new approach. Both of these experiences are common and serve as...

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When Collaboration Really Counts

  Every year, there are 400,000 deaths attributed to preventable mistakes in American hospitals. Read that again—this year, 400,000 people will die from avoidable errors during hospital care. Known as Preventable Adverse Events (PAEs), these serious oversights include medication errors, hospital-acquired infections and misdiagnosis, among others. With the rapid advances of medical technology and the presence of world-class facilities in many communities, it’s hard to believe such a staggering statistic is possible, yet this is exactly what John James, PhD, found in his 2013 study. To create some perspective, I did some quick math. I calculated that nearly four times as many Americans die from PAEs each year than have died in all of America’s wars over the past 70 years. That got my attention. As I continued to read, I learned that one major category of preventable adverse events (PAEs) is errors of communication; either between healthcare providers or between providers and their patients. In other words, poor collaboration. Since helping people work better together is what I do, I wanted to get some first-hand perspectives to better understand what was being done to address this serious problem. So I contacted a couple of friends who develop leaders in...

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More Emotional Intelligence Please

  Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) has been a trending topic since the mid-90s, when author and psychologist Daniel Goleman first popularized the term. Harvard Business Review hailed it as “a revolutionary, paradigm-shifting idea” and Yale University established an entire research institute around the concept. In fact, research shows that people with emotional intelligence are more likely to succeed than those with high IQs or ample experience. After all, one only has to look at the achievements of people with tremendous social agility, like Oprah Winfrey or Howard Schultz, to conclude that high EI helped them get to the top. These days, the general consensus in management circles is the more EI, the better. While I tend to agree with this sentiment, the question still stands, “How exactly does one get more emotional intelligence?” Despite a plethora of self-help books on the topic and assessments to measure one’s current level of EI, the answer to the question in practical terms remains somewhat elusive. Leadership and employee development professionals often struggle to find sound, skill-based approaches for increasing EI, so it’s a high-stakes question that we need to answer on a personal and organizational level. If you are looking to help...

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Commitment Comes from Why

  You’re grabbing coffee with colleagues and talking shop and, at some point, the subject of people being more and more non-committal comes up. Somebody says people don’t care as much as they used to, and maybe shares an anecdote about pulling teeth for RSVPs for their wedding. Another person pins the issue on Millennials—they work for a company for three months and expect a big promotion and a thank-you card for simply showing up. Plus, they text everything and yet never answer their phones. Deep down, you know none of these reasons completely capture the issue. So you flex your managerial prowess and pipe up with “Commitment comes from why.” Blank stares. Here’s where I drop in and explain the research behind your record-scratch of a statement to the befuddled group. In May 2016, I partnered with a national research firm to take a closer look at commitment in the modern workplace. I surveyed 1,849 American employees across a range of industries, and found some fascinating data about what inspires us to commit. The responses (91.3%) made it clear that people do show a stronger sense of commitment when their tasks are more personally important, and 98.3% of employees...

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Embrace Opposition for Better Results

Two Heads Are Better Than One Many of us grew up hearing the expression, two heads are better than one. On an intuitive level, this idiom makes sense: you get better results when you invite another person’s perspective to assess a situation, help solve a complex problem, or come up with a new approach. This is especially true when the stakes are high, so why go it alone? Research now supports this idea. Professor Chris Frith of University College London (UCL) found this to be the case when the people involved are relatively competent and able to embrace opposition. In other words, they must be able to respectfully disagree while continuing to move toward a desired outcome. In one experiment, this proved to be true even when one participant had far greater experience and more facts. In short, two heads are better when the people involved can successfully navigate opposing perspectives. If two heads are better than one under these conditions, then what about three, five or even ten people working together to accomplish something important? Is it safe to assume that many heads addressing a tough problem is an even better approach? That seems to be what Dr. Anita...

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The Manager’s Most Important Tool

"Words, words, words." -Hamlet Simply put, management is about getting things done. At times, it’s the manager taking action, but most often, it’s the manager motivating others to take collective action. And the manager generally does this through one common yet powerful medium: words. Written or spoken, words are the manager’s most important tool. How well this tool is used determines nearly every measurable outcome—everything from the engagement level of employees to the team’s results and even the manager’s own career trajectory. If this is the case, as I believe it is, why do we spend relatively little time considering how the words we use impact—or fail to impact—others? Most managers I know are deluged with a daily avalanche of words. In fact, one study suggests that managers spend between two-thirds and three-fourths of their day in conversation. No matter where you work, unless maybe you’re a lighthouse keeper, it’s likely that you spend the vast majority of each day talking or listening. It’s the way we gather information, stay abreast of projects, identify problems, give feedback, make decisions, define strategy, update superiors, and virtually everything else that determines success or failure in organizational life. In short, it’s how we...

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Diversity through a Different Lens

  The need for diverse teams that can embrace different perspectives and collaboratively create innovative solutions has never been greater. Plus, tapping into the best thinking of a wide array of people is only going to become more important as problems become more complex, competition increases, and the pace of just about everything accelerates. In fact, the ability to build diverse and collaborative teams may just be the most important management skill of the decade. Recent research supports this view: McKinsey & Company’s research suggests a “diversity dividend” based on a strong correlation between financial performance and a company’s makeup. Specifically, they found that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform industry averages. MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence found that teams that are socially sensitive, give everyone a voice in meetings, and include more women work smarter and often make better decisions. The idea that women should be given greater voice in decision-making is also supported by research from Catalyst that found organizations with the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform their peer companies by wide margins. Deloitte Australia found inclusive teams...

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Could You Be the Reason People Are Leaving?

  Become the Reason People Stay. Why do good people leave organizations? I often ask this question when I lead workshops or speak at conferences. Inevitably, someone offers up that people leave managers—not companies. And, while nearly everyone agrees with this maxim, there is also data that proves it. Research from Gallup shows that roughly 50% of employees will leave a job at some point because of a poor relationship with their manager. In fact, while reading this blog, you are probably thinking about some exasperating boss that was at least a factor in you leaving a job. I see this data come to life when people share how they felt an overwhelming need to “escape” an employment situation in order to restore a sense of dignity to their lives. I hear words like “toxic” and “miserable” and “suffocating”—to describe how people spent the better part of their waking hours. As I listen to these stories, I wonder how we got to this point and why we’re not doing better in this crucial area of leadership. Here’s where it gets (even more) interesting—most of the people in my sessions are managers themselves. Yet, when I ask whether they have ever...

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Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Strengthening Accountability

How would you like to be accountable to 4 million boys and girls? Just ask the staff at Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). Every year, they are accountable to help these children grow, develop, thrive, and fulfill their potential.

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Developing the Skill of Accountability

  A Dozen Things You can do after Core Strengths Accountability Training to Sustain and Extend the Learning Now what? It’s the essence of a question the authors of Core Strengths Accountability (CSA) training and our Master Facilitator Team often hear. The questions arise from the realization that no matter how good the CSA training experience, if there is not additional reinforcement and personal commitment on the part of learners, sustainable change and better performance in high-stakes situations is a hit-or-miss proposition. Metaphors abound that make this point. Imagine going to the best gym in town, working with a professional, knowledgeable, and engaging personal trainer who puts you through the best workout you’ve ever experienced. Then, you leave the gym, return to your old habits, and expect your fitness and health to be forever improved. Although we all wish this were the case, it’s not. Lasting change requires intentional effort and in most cases, hard work. Fortunately, for accountability skills, it’s an enjoyable process that simply requires people to do what they really want to do anyway—take ownership and take initiative—and help others do likewise. So whether you are a CSA facilitator, a L&D executive, or a line leader trying...

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Better Decision-Making Through Accountability

 I recently had a conversation with a friend who was wrestling with a tough decision. Oftentimes, tough decisions involve choosing between two less-than-ideal options — discerning the lesser of two evils. In my friend’s case, there were two good options. Both would likely yield a positive outcome in the near and long-term future. Surprisingly, it didn’t make the decision any easier for him. In fact, the choice remained incredibly difficult. The conversation made me think about David Brooks’ recent op-ed in the New York Times, The Choice Explosion. In the article, Brooks describes social science research that reveals how Americans crave options, yet don’t feel equipped to consistently make good choices. In fact, in some ways, we are wired to make poor choices. While experts offer a variety of techniques for weighing options, Brooks eventually prescribes a large dose of self-awareness as perhaps the most critical component of better decision-making. At this point, my friend had been deliberating for weeks already, struggling to make the right decision or at least the one that would be best for his career and family, and allow him to feel good about the path forward. He was more than willing to take responsibility for...

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The Learning Theory of Accountability

Five Ways in which Core Strengths Accountability Aligns with Adult Learning Theory Thanks to Malcolm Knowles (1913-1997), talent development professionals have had the opportunity to use the very erudite-sounding word, andragogy, to describe something most of us know intuitively: adults learn differently than children. While it’s sometimes fun to throw around “six-dollar words,” it really comes down to the fact that adults need to be involved in the learning process, find what they’re learning to be relevant to their real-world situations, and recognize opportunities for immediate application. Without these elements, training can fall flat with little hope for a sustainable performance boost. Although adult learning theory has informed the design of corporate training for the last 30 years, some courses more closely align with the critical principles of andragogy than others. In this paper, I will explain how the design and delivery of Core Strengths Accountability honors the principles of adult learning. In fact, Core Strengths Accountability can truly be transformative as learners begin to see themselves, their colleagues, and their world differently. What We Know about Adult Learners Nearly everyone agrees on a few key ideas when it comes to designing and delivering effective workplace learning: 1. Teachers are...

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Positive People Perform Better At Work

Accountability Raises PsyCap You might have a hard time saying that 10 times quickly, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It’s been proven by scholarship in the emerging field of positive organizational behavior, but it also reflects the experiences of anyone who has managed people for more than a few days. Just think about the times when you’ve had one of those grumpy, glass-half-empty folks on your team. An Eeyore isn’t very productive and tends to drag down the productivity of others, as well What’s less well known, however, is how personal accountability creates more positive people—the kind of people you fight to have on your team. That’s because personal accountability improves your team’s PsyCap. My team’s what? you ask. Psychological capital, or PsyCap, is a relatively new term researcher coined when describing the benefits of positivity. Dr. Fred Luthans, the George Holmes Distinguished Professor of Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has identified four PsyCap components: self-efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience. Luthans and his fellow researchers believe people can develop these elements through brief training interventions. But what kind of training addresses all of these psychological constructs? Does it even exist? The answer is found in a...

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Raising the Bar from Engagement to Ownership

Missing the Mark If you think employee engagement is good for business, then you aren’t alone. And if you think business isn’t good at creating employee engagement, then, again, you aren’t alone. A recent global survey by Deloitte confirms other studies and what many of us instinctively understand -- that there’s a gap between what leaders know to be important (employee engagement) and how well business creates that engagement. That’s why studies routine show that only about 40 percent of full-time workers are highly engaged. That leaves the other 60 percent feeling unsupported, detached, or disengaged.Clearly, such numbers don’t engender a great deal of confidence in the ability of businesses to provide the performance lift needed to win in a competitive global economy. Typical attempts to improve engagement often involve small changes like free coffee in the break room, relaxed dress codes, or flexible work schedules. More enlightened companies might go further by increasing opportunities for employee growth and development, more clearly defining career paths, or encouraging greater work-life balance. None of these changes are inappropriate. In fact, they are likely to be helpful in small ways—steps in the right direction. Winning in a highly competitive global marketplace, however, requires...

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Ten Things Accountable People Never Say

Few things are more frustrating than hearing co-workers constantly shifting blame and denying accountability for the results of their teams. What’s worse, however, is reacting to those co-workers by expressing the same types of frustrations. Accountable people are different. They take ownership of their responsibilities and take initiative to make things happen. They connect what needs to be done with why it’s important—to them, the organization, and other key stakeholders. This link sparks initiative and opens the door to a wide array of strengths that can be chosen based on the situation and the needs of the people involved. Accountability is a liberating and energizing force, but it does limit our vocabulary when interacting with people. So one way to see if accountability is an issue for you or your teams is to listen to what’s being said. Specifically, here are 10 things accountable people never say… 1. I don’t have a choice. We always have choices, but people allow their personal filters and the circumstances they’re in to limit their perception of choice. We can only choose from the options we see, so if we have a self-limiting view, we don’t see all of the options we have. 2....

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