It’s glib and irresponsible to just blame conservative Republicans or Tea Party activists for the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and of so many other innocent people.  Indeed, the young man who committed this crime was clearly disturbed, and there’s no reason to believe that this crime was simply an expression of a conscious but zealous idealism.  And, certainly, none of Giffords critics intended or sought such action, or would have urged anybody to start shooting.

But to dismiss our responsibility is also glib and dangerous.  This tragic story exposes some disturbing flaws in American society. Read the rest of this entry »

Our professional group had a wonderful “bingo” game last month, that really helped us all meet each other.  Here’s how to set it up:

1. Get each person to write about three phrases that might characterize them. At least one should be obscure, and one very generic. For example, I might list the following for myself:

* Used the computer language ‘spitball’ in graduate school

* Asks lots of questions, and advertises that fact

* Once ran ‘computer assertiveness training’ workshops

2. Put together boards with a grid of 4 x 6 = 16 such phrases. 3. Hand these out.

3. Participants have to talk to each other, finding names to put in each box on their bingo sheet.

On Becoming a Consultant

January 5, 2011

I’ve often been asked for advice on making the transition from practitioner to consultant.  Here are a few of the points that I emphasize:

  • You don’t have to have answers, and certainly don’t have to have them right up front!
  • Ask insightful questions, listen, listen more. Let the clients voice what they need, the visions they carry, the kinds of support that will help them make needed changes. More change will happen when they name it themselves. And when the client’s management sees that real change follows your visits, you’ll be a hero.
  • You may have lots of information, see things very quickly, and could impress people by coming in swinging. In the long run, this works against you.
  • It’s fine not to know things!  Tell the truth, and say, “I don’t know” . . . but will find out, or lead your client to other resources.  Little lies fester, and always come back against you.
  • Not all money is green!  If you’ve serious questions about the integrity of an organization, about how they treat customers or behave in the markeplace — stay away.
  • Choose clients with whom who can succeed.  If you don’t believe your candid advice is really wanted, or expect that they are not ready to change in any significant way, it not a profitable engagement.
  • Define the evaluation criteria at the start of each engagement, so that you and the client can periodically assess your real progress.

Executive Scavenger Hunt

January 5, 2011

A member of the Organization Development Network asked, “I am facilitating a program for executives on the topic ofTransformational Leadership’.   What questions do you think should be asked to really get the heads spinning?”

In trying to respond to this query, I asked myself what might get executives to look beyond the surface view of their organizations.  Too often we see what we want, and not other things that don’t fit our paradigms.  What games might get them to look further — based on what they already know?  And then I had it — a scavenger hunt!

Divide the executives up into teams of two or three, and ask each team to identify where in the organization they might find:

  • Ecstasy
  • Greed
  • Delight
  • Fear
  • Contentment
  • Pride
  • Exasperation
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty
  • Eenergy
  • Team spirit
  • Anger
  • Powerlessness
  • Ingenuity
  • Community

(or your own list, in this spirit)

Normally, executives don’t talk about these things. But ask them where these things might be found, and a new degree of honesty and courage may arise. That would be my hope.

Need I point out that most of these scavenger items are about individual feelings, that can lead to healthy or to destructive behavior.  Too often, I believe that managers think of their organization as a whole, and not of the individuals who make it up, and whose personal experience feeds right into an organizational culture.

Transformational leadership involves blending the best that indivuals can offer into an organized, coherent, creative, and profitable endeavor.  It means knowing all the stakeholders (and those who should be stakeholders, but, for whatever reason, are not), having a strong vision, creating a climate of trust, integrity, and creativity, and being able to model the values that should guide the whole organization.

On choosing a consultant

January 4, 2011

In an on-line discussion about guidelines for choosing a consultant, I suggested the following:

  • Start with a statement of your problem, that is as specific as possible. But be clear that you’re stating the problem, and not your sense of what a solution might be.
  • See how it feels to talk with your prospective consultant about that problem. Do their questions make you think, broaden your concept of how a solution might be found?
  • Don’t attempt to get a free solution from those discussions. Actually with a good consultant, you will learn something in each encounter, but the goal is to test the working relationship and not to move towards solutions.
  • Be very clear about fees, retainers, confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, ownership of new intellectual property, etc. If you and your consultant have trouble with these, that’s a red flag.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for references, and to speak with them.
  • The consultant must have the body of knowledge you require, feel like a comfortable partner, communicate his or her professionalism, and acknowledge your role in the consulting process.
  • Agree on evaluation criteria at the start of the engagement. (e.g. “So, at the end of phase one, we’ll look forward to having a feature list for the product we’ll be building, and a detailed definition of the market segment to whom it will be directed.”)
  • Enter into the consulting agreement only if you respect, trust, and look forward to working with this consultant.
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