Organizational Health: I’m Not Here For The Money

Empty Pockets

Talent development, succession planning, leadership training – call it what you want . . . but be serious about it. 

In most organizations, talent development is probably the most under-budgeted, under-staffed, under-creative, and underutilized department in the organization.

The First Thing To Go

I know a person who was laid off three months ago when his entire Talent Development Department was eliminated due to budget cuts.

Anyone in training or HR knows the old saying, “Training is always the first one to go.”

It happens over and over again, when actually during budget cuts is not the time to cut talent development.  But that’s just one portion of the whole picture.

Looking to the Past for Hope

What I’ve been seeing so much of lately is that leaders don’t want to try anything “new” and they don’t want to invest any (more) money.  They want to stick to the same old tried and true models.

So when they go to hire, most leaders look mainly at things like this:

“What you’ve done in the past…”

“What positions you have had in the past…”

Rather than looking forward at things like this:

“What you can do for us now…?”

“What you can bring to us in the future…?”

In this day and age (and economy,) no one can simply rest on their laurels, so to speak.

A Healthy Understanding

We have seen through numerous studies over the last few years that money is not the number one thing employee’s want from their jobs.  Up around the top of most desired benefits from employment is usually something to do with development/promotion opportunities.

Consequently, it’s the job of the HR and organization leaders to stop and say, “Hey, we need to start looking at this more seriously and investing in it”.

According to a recent survey by Burson-Marsteller and global research training firm Great Place to Work, the top two programs that help companies achieve stability are Branding (75%) and Career Development (75%).  What’s that?  Career development?  Hmmmm.

When you only hire someone on the grounds of what he HAS done in the past – over and over – then that’s what you’re going to get, the same OLD stuff.  Not only does leadership need to look at what the person HAS done, but what he CAN do, and WILL do in the future, and build upon that.

Modern Day Training and Development

There have been so many advances in training techniques over just the last few years.  The days of the instructor standing at the front of the room talking about textbook theories (boooooring…..) are gone – or should be.

Now we can add video, audio, animation, Internet links, and infographics to our PowerPoints (remember to keep your slides simple).

We can make it easier for employees to get access to training with online courses using such programs as Lectora or Captivate.  We can get the message out to more people at one time with social media, Go-to-Training, Google hangouts or your own built in video/teleconferencing.

And don’t forget about team facilitation, gaming, and other types of interactive programs.  There are countless ideas if you just look for them.

Looking Fresh. Feeling Fresh.

Don’t hire the guy that’s done the same thing over and over for 25 years.  That’s just going to get you the same thing that he started out with and has been regurgitating for years.

Hire for experience AND knowledge AND attitude.

If you look at the most successful organizations today, you’ll see that they do just that – Disney, Zappos, Wegman’s.  And sometimes the focus is mainly on attitude.  That way you have a better chance of people “fitting” in the organization and staying longer.

But leadership also has to do their part.  unfortunately, quite often they just hire and hope for the best.  This is quite sad because developing your talent from within is one of the most important aspects and advantages of your business.  This is what employee’s want and what your organization needs.

Creating a Magic Kingdom

Here’s a good example.  The Walt Disney Company (my fave).  I would LOVE to get a job there training with the Disney Institute, HR, or about anything else for that matter.  However, that may not ever happen.  Disney does a great job of promoting from within.

They do that with a lot of cross-training and putting cast members in positions where their knowledge of the organization will work best . . . like training.

Facilitators at the Disney Institute and Disney Traditions (orientation) classes have all come up within the organization.  In fact cast members who facilitate in Traditions may very well be heading to work at the Jungle Cruise or Tower of Terror after class.

A Final Note:

Leaders – the composition of the office has changed, and you have to acknowledge that.  We now have FOUR generations of workers in our businesses:

  • Mature/World War II Generation (born before 1946)
  • Baby Boomers (1946–1965)
  • Generation X (1966–1980)
  • Generation Y/Millennials (1981–2000)

I guarantee you that the Gen-X’s and Gen-Y’s do not learn well in the same ways as the previous two generations. So for leaders and the people in charge of the organizational health, it is highly important to train and develop in ways that work for EVERYBODY!

So ask yourselves a couple of these questions:

Where is my organization honestly headed?  What do my employees want?  How many employees do I lose to competitors who develop them better than me?  What’s my next step? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Andy Uskavitch
Andy Uskavitch is Leadership Development and Customer Service Specialist
He develops and facilitates Leadership, Motivation & Teambuilding Seminars
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Leaders: It’s Not All About the Money

Obsessed with Money

It is time that all of us get into the 21st Century about motivation and driving high-performance in the workplace.  

Over 20 years of research about what motivates people and teams to perform at their highest levels, have consistently shown that it is not money.

What Motivates Us

Yes, it’s true.  Money is not a primary motivator for a highly engaged and high performance workplace.  There are many Organization Development, Human Resources, and other professionals that understand this fact.

The research that leads us to this conclusion includes, but is not limited to:

Research from the Daniel Pink’s book, Drive:

  • Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives.
  • Mastery— the urge to get better and better at something that matters.
  • Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves; not money.

Research conducted by, The Coffman Organization:

As a matter of fact, it is likely that the pursuit of money alone is a motivator that leads people and organizations down the wrong path (see EnronWall Street, Jimmy Hoffa, etc.).

It could be why leaders layoff instead of innovate, or why employees skip safety for speed.

 Is money important?

Yes, but it will not encourage those elements that turn into an organization’s strategic advantage(s).

No Money?

Money plays a factor only in that people need to be paid a fair wage.

If employees are fairly compensated for the work they do, and it is clear that this is the case, it generally is not a primary motivator.

The underlying issue regarding money and pay is that people really base what they believe about pay in relationship to those around them (or in their industry).

If you are paying one engineer $10 and another $100 for doing the exact same job, then money is a demotivator.

However, if everyone is equally paid, relatively speaking, then pay alone is not going to make people work harder, smarter, or produce more results.

 So Now What?

The solution is not as simple as pointing out that money is not a motivator to an engaged and highly productive workforce.

There are some awesome lists of actions to take created by some excellent organizations based on heaps of research.

I encourage leaders and companies to do some or all of the things they suggest.

Here are three things to keep in mind:

1. The Money Cop Out 

Do not let managers/leaders say that the reason people don’t perform is their pay.  That is a cop out.  It is a way to say its not their fault when in fact they are the people that can create a motivating environment.

2. Meaningfulness

Make sure that every single person understands what he or she does to gain and retain customers.  They must have a clear line of sight to the end customer to understand their impact.

3. Make Sure Money is Not a Factor

Calibrate pay against your industry and ensure that you are paying employees fairly.  Make that known. Do not ask about it on employee engagement or opinion surveys.  No one thinks they are getting paid enough. It is not a differentiator between low and high performance teams.

Once money is off the table as “the reason teams aren’t productive” or “the reason morale is low” the real work of creating a highly engaged, productive, and profitable organization can begin.

How do you deal with the question about money as a motivator?  What have you seen as factors in highly productive workplaces?  Let me know!


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Anil Saxena
 is a President & Senior Consultant Cube 214 Consulting
He helps organizations create environments that generate repeatable superior results
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Leaders: What’s Really Important

Bring Joy to Work

As a leader, have you settled on what is most important to you? Do you know what makes you and those around you truly happy?

I was reading a great article in Success Magazine about Roger Ebert where he shared a quote that really got me thinking;

“I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do.

To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn’t always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.”

Happy Leading

As a leader, what are you doing to first make yourself happy?

Unhappy BossI am not talking about the self-centered-all-the-focus-on-me-me-me-type of faux-happiness. What I am speaking about is how often I see others put themselves last thinking that they are leading by example.

We must, instead teach and influence by working on ourselves which leads to growth and ultimately happiness.

Leaders rarely ask themselves these question honestly:

  • “How good am I?”
  • “What do I need to be better?”
  • “Do I know what makes me happy?
  • “Am I really working from my strengths?”

Another way to look at this is by answering this: Have you thought about what brings you joy; personally and professionally?

One of John Wooden’s famous quotes might help answer this…

“Promise to give so much time improving yourself that you have not time to criticize others.”

Personal Responsibility

You must take personal responsibility for defining and living this. I believe this is your first step to being the best you can be and contributing joy to the world. Then as a leader, identify what are you doing to make others happier and bring them joy?

So many of us live by the Golden Rule; “treat others how you want to be treated.” In terms of respect and integrity the Golden Rule holds true. But when working with others or simply communicating with them, I believe you should treat others according to their needs not yours.

Have you REALLY taken the time to understand what your employees, colleagues and family needs?  Do you take the time to personalize; adjust and adapt your approach dependant on who you are working or communicating with?

Useful Tools

When we typically think about our teams, we tend to generalize and think that we all know each other well. But if you really examine your team inter-dynamics, most find that they may have shared many “experiences,” but that they don’t truly understand others well enough to increase effectiveness to a significant level.

In my practice I use the DiSC assessment tool. I believe it may be the most powerful tool you ever learn to maximize your own potential and influence others.

With this instrument, we have watched:

  1. Mediocre managers evolve into leaders;
  2. Teams mired in conflict resolve years of pent-up stress
  3. Floundering salespeople transform into superstars
  4. Countless careers revitalized and redirected by individuals who have learned how to fully leverage their natural gifts.

When people truly understand how these four different styles behaved and what their needs are, communication and cooperation is so much  easier and this is what is really important.

Jim Rolm, someone I admire immensely, shares this:

Managers help people see themselves as they are. Leaders help people see themselves better than they are. Leaders talk about what could be and then they take the steps to help people become what could be.

What are you doing as a leader to help people? Not than just their jobs; help them gain greater joy in  their lives. Great leaders are interested in people in general, not just for what they can get from them.

I hope you will commit the time and energy to figure this out and then live long enough to lead others on this important journey. What first step will you take?


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Kristi Royse

Kristi Royse is CEO of KLR Consulting
She inspires success in leaders and teams with coaching and staff development

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Hope Actually IS a Strategy

Always Hope

Where to start, where to start.  I have, for the most part, loyally posted a monthly blog for nearly two years on this fabulous and support-my-crazy-blogs site.  But last month?  Nothing.

I know… there was no blog post from me.  My shelves were empty, my inspiration went desert, my fun balloon shot around the room of my head like a firefly in July.

So What Happened?

Why did I not produce? I was overcome by events and overwhelmed by my own Gen X cynicism.  Satirical by nature, with a hint of edge and a full dose of self-deprecation, I can usually laugh things off or cleverly bring to light subtle observations and colorful storytelling about leadership.

Verbose? Usually…  Pointed? Always…  Relevant? For the most part…

On Reflection

WOW, though, May sure did bring on an abundance of real-world worst-practices in leadership.  In my neck of the woods I was witness to a few leadership decisions that had me scratching my head for days. Days!

In the world I observed nothing BUT leadership decisions that had me scratching my head for weeks. Weeks, I tell you!

It seemed that after the May 1st world liberation from Osama bin Laden, which showcased many critical leadership decisions that created the near-perfect trajectory of what will hopefully be the “best practice for decisions” in the years to come, that we had spent all of our good-decisions-by-leaders cards.

I’ll admit, I just couldn’t put it all together.  Usually “the machine,” as I affectionately call my brain, can synthesize enormous amounts of inputs, wrap it all up in a bow, and spit out the right mix of fact and effect to create what I hope to be a bearable read.  May?  Ah, not so much.

So what happened? “The machine” got tired.

Several, Many, and Some of You

  • Now, several of you have offline discussions with me, and many of you know me personally either through conferences or other publications or by the mere happenstance of luck where I get to talk to a lot of my blog readers.
  • Several of you have seen my eyes light up when talking about leadership and how to advance a business through all levels of people.
  • Many of you have felt the temperature go up in a room where I get to talk about people behavior, making bets on how complete strangers will respond to various events.
  • Some of you have even suffered the word-blasting tirades I’ve gone on when talking about the poor judgment and decision-making that so many current leaders practice on a daily basis (I am eternally sorry, though it will happen again… I just can’t help myself).

Well Run Dry

I’m not sure how many of you have seen my well tapped dry, though.  Sure, I was able to muster enough energy to have many discussions with a lot of you last month, but the one topic I just COULDN’T talk about was a single instance of good leadership decision-making after May 1st. (sigh)

Hope in Sight

Hope is Closer Than You thinkI thought long and hard about this and the one thing I came up with was the same thing that so many others look for in leadership: Hope.

Now, relax, folks, relax.  This isn’t about Obama.  That book nearly made it impossible for anyone else to mention “Audacity”, never mind “Hope,” so just try to put that out of your minds for a second.  I haven’t read the book, so any future allusions to it are merely coincidental by nature (I admit, I’m not big on non-fiction).

What I’m talking about is how a single decent—not exceptional, not great, not even GOOD… a mere DECENT—decision by a leader can spark hope, which I have simplified down to the mere feeling that a nice outcome is possible.

May 1st did just that for many, but the continued lack of clear and decent decisions afterward by ANY leaders near and far really fizzled the opportunity to spark what I’m now calling “hope-momentum.”

A few months ago I found myself talking about this to several leaders in an organization that has gone through multiple hands, cultures, decades of change.

My observation about hope continues to be the same:

  • Hope is risky.
  • Hope generates fear.
  • Hope challenges trust.

As human beings, a thinking being, a natural problem-solving being that (at least in this part of the world) struggles to match thinking with feeling, it is nearly impossible for us to think about something good without evidence that it will probably 99% work.

And even then we have our doubts, don’t we. That’s because Hope is hard… and things are hard enough now, aren’t they.

  • We hope that a plan will work out, but most of our thinking remains on why it probably won’t.
  • We hope that a relationship will be great, though it’s difficult not to keep just one inch of ourselves on the outside “just in case.”
  • We hope that our leaders will make the right decisions, though we criticize and complain about every angle throughout the decision-making process… and even with positive and predicted outcomes, it’s likely that we’ll still find some fault.

Thinking With Your Heart

Do you disagree?  Of course not.  You do this just like everyone else.  Why do you think that happens?

Well for starters, we would like to think we’re all brawn and logic, but if we care to look deeply enough, the truth is that it simply FEELS better to work out the bad things, sitting in the “worser” things until proven otherwise.

Personal history and world history alike have taught us that a surprise kick hurts far more than one we planned for.  The only problem is that we waste a lot of time waiting for the kick… and then if it doesn’t happen we often still double over to prove that it somehow still hurt us.

We simply FEEL more about hope than we think we do.

Hope Is a Strategy

If you think of the best things that have occurred in your life, if you look at the voted best American leaders (and this list is 2 years old—let me know if you can find a more recent one), or if you consider the countries that repeatedly make the “best places to live in the world,” and/or if you study the greatest communities of all time, there is one thing they all have or had in common: their HOPE was a large part of their strategy.

Hope sets a tone. Hope sets a mark.  Hope just might be the force that keeps us innocent (or ignorant?) enough to believe in something before any other “thing” can keep it from moving forward.

Now, while I’m an intuitive decision-maker and a strategic thinker at the core (buzz buzz buzz), I rarely make an argument supporting the importance of putting hope in front of facts.

I use the term “Hope is not a Strategy” quite a bit… but I always follow it up with “… but it’s a good place to start.”

Give Hope A Chance

So, in this time of bottom-barrel decision making, from lewd photos to weakened performance indices, to public school systems and private banking fees, I ask everyone to try a social experiment with me: make at least ONE decision each day on the basis of hope, and keep it pure.

Stay clear of attaching negativity to it—it’s only one decision.  Divert your attention from defining or predicting the outcome of mediocrity—it’s only ONE decision.  Grow your hope forward and attach it to some of your decisions, just see what happens.

Possible?  Too mushy-gushy?  Impractical?  Is this something you’d consider?  Why or why not?

Christa (Centola) Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results

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Blankity-Blank-Blank Nerves!!


Nerves! Those blankity-blank-blank nerves!

Yes, you heard me.  Nerves.  Those darn nerves!  Always around, never a dull moment: “nerves” have gotten the best of us and promoted the worst of us.  Leadership isn’t leadership without nerves, is it.

I have a close relationship with nerves.  My nerves, other people’s nerves, high nerves, low nerves… the kind of nerves you see when someone cuts you off in morning traffic, and the kind of nerves you see when a paramedic performs CPR.  Nerves.  So important, so underestimated… always forgotten until a crisis.

“Why this word for this blog?” you might ask.

Nerves Maketh the Leader

Consider how nerves are involved in leaders:

  • Strong nerves
  • Weak nerves
  • Recognizing people with nerves for good or bad
  • Determining how to use the best nerves in the worst cases
  • Putting the worst nerves away during the best circumstances

As leaders, we must take heed of our nerves all the time. And this requires an enormous amount of discipline and self-awareness.  These two characteristics tend to be at the bottom of the “Top Ten” for daily leadership habits for the average leader. Conversely, these characteristics are somewhere toward the top when we have the time to study and focus on leadership best practices.

Yes, nerves, as painful and exhilarating as they may be in the moment, are that easy to forget.

On My Last Nerve

Each year from April 25th to April 27th, I reflect on a time in my career when I relied 100% on my nerves for two full days. This occurrence happened while facilitating a self-proclaimed “schizophrenic” and “slightly dysfunctional” executive team through a leadership program.

[Well, it was actually three full days of nerve management if I consider the amount of unnecessary coaching and talk-to’s I got from my direct manager about what to do and what not to do (making it worse: there tended to be more “what not to do’s”) leading up to the two days.  We’ve all been there.  Nerves.]

This time of reflection helps remind me how nerves are so much the part of everyday life for all types of leaders. Remembering things as simple (or should I say “as massively complex”) as nerves helps keeps my eyes open to how really complex leadership can be.

Remember When…

In the 80’s…

I remember that having nerve was equal to having courage.  “He has nerve—I like that.”  “She has a lot of nerve, she’ll go places.”  Ah, the 80s.  Such an interesting time for Organizational Culture.

In the 90’s…

I recall that having nerve was equal to having audacity.  “Have you ever seen so much nerve?” “Yeah, Chris won’t be going anywhere here.”  It was also a time when culture was starting to look at corporate culture, and with the institutionalization of the Internet and the Global Workforce, the 90’s were rich with opportunities to put your nerve away… or at least reel it in a little.

Too much could happen, after all, and we couldn’t retract emails quite as easily back then.

In fact, by the late 90s…

You had nerve if you called anyone out on anything, and by the early 2000s we saw Whistleblower protection and new SEC rules on ethics and compliance due to a few (a-hem) Enron situations.  The nerve!

And that brings us to today…

As leaders, knowing our nerves and how we manage them has never been tested so much as these days:

  • Our families are under strain due to economic and regular family stresses
    • As parents, do we think about our nerves?
  • Our companies are under strain due to economic and global stresses
    • As employees and/or executives, do we think about our nerves?
  • Our communities are under strain due to economic and social stresses
    • As civilians, do we think about our nerves?

The natural strains we feel as leaders impact our nerves—what can we do to get ahead of them?  How can we keep them in check?  What can we do to play it cool as needed or fire them up as appropriate?  Is it harder these days to manage and navigate our “nerves”?

Christa (Centola) Dhimo is President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results


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The Exceptional Strength of Followership

Ducks in a Row

This month marks a remarkable time in all of our lives. It doesn’t matter where you live, how you were raised, or which side of any current news-story you are on, these are remarkable times!

It seems that we have opened this decade with a torrent of “worst-that-could-happen” news.  In fact, the USA political, social, and economic issues seem to pale in comparison to the bigger, global picture.

Major Recent Happenings

Just take a look at the global events that have recently unfolded to get perspective:

  • Multiple courageous uprisings from strong dictatorships in an effort to free civilians of oppression and injustice
  • Continued force and oppression from other strong dictatorships to bury the uprisings
  • Multiple natural disasters creating several “worst-that-could-happen” moments. Then only to be followed by more “worst-that-could-happen” fallout from those disasters

Right now, the heartbreaking reality is, in fact, truly heartbreaking in its reality.

The Best in Humanity

Still, and amidst it all, we are bearing witness to some of the strongest natural characteristics in human beings.  Some of it is related to nature—all animals display some level of resilience, adaptability, courage, and forward thinking.

After all, that is Darwinism at its best, isn’t it?

Sure, but you cannot deny that there is something very human coming through in all the recent calamity: a fervent release of hope, community, leadership, and most importantly followership.

On Leading & Following

This is by far one of the most exceptional times for leaders. It is a time to easily measure the power of a leader on a global stage. Just turn on the news and gauge the effectiveness of any leader by seeing their acts of leadership in comparison to the acts of the followership.

In a remarkable way, these acts of  “New Followership” actually define leadership.

New Followership

“New Followership” this isn’t a new phrase.  “New Followership” has been around for a while, though it’s just starting to take shape in a way that the every-day person can appreciate (me included).  In fact, I had completely forgotten about the mid-90’s and early 2000’s focus on this until recently when I saw a former colleague who asked this question,

Christa, in your opinion and with your experience, it seems like the world just needs new leadership, isn’t that true?

Without even thinking, I said, “No.”

It was in one of my not-often-used tones when I feel so strongly against something there simply isn’t a softer way to respond.  In fact, I am surprised at how quickly I turned down this notion that LEADERSHIP could be a lynchpin against the current heartbreaking realities around the world.

With inner dialog fully engaged, I mentally asked myself: Christa, where are you going with this?

I gave myself a few moments to collect my thoughts, and I went with this explanation:

What the world needs the most now is New Followership.”

Reverse Perspective

You see, “followership” is the single most powerful and critical elements of leadership.

I know that sounds very Yogi Berra of me, but many people still don’t realize how important followership is.  In fact, if you ask anyone about this, they will likely view followership as a form of submission, underestimated because it (by definition) pertains to those who follow someone.

However, it’s easy to at least start seeing followership for what it is:

A term that describes how a mass of people can impact decisions about leadership and direction.

For me, “New Followership” takes it a step further.  It also describes the sense that followers can become the real leader:

  • When the sum of the parts become bigger than the single person
  • When a group provides the very leadership that a singular person cannot deliver
  • When the collective followership becomes the de facto leader, even if for a short transitional time
  • When amassed toward a common, strong, and compelling vision fueled by hope and taken on because of despair, the strength of many can overthrow the persona of one.

This is what we are seeing today in the corners of massive governmental, societal, and social change.

Today’s Example

Even in Japan, we are seeing that the strength of the leaders and the confidence in their abilities is largely demonstrated through their followership.  Many would say that Japan’s sense of followership has more societal weight than leadership—we see that now, don’t we?

No looting, no chaos, no requirement from the leaders to enforce community standards and respectful behavior in the face of desperation…

Now THAT is “New Followership!”

What seems more powerful right now in times of despair?  Leadership or Followership?  How does this relate to previous revolutions, changes, coups, and natural disasters?  Should leaders use today’s news as examples to learn and live more strongly aligned to the importance of Followership?

Christa (Centola) Dhimo, President & Founder, via Best Practices
She helps clients by aligning human capital performance with business results


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The Leader’s Journey: The Fool On The Hill?

Fool On The Hill

During one of my personal contemplation sessions, I was taken away by the Beatles song “Fool on the Hill” which was playing in another room in our house.

It’s the Beatles playing, so of course I had to listen to the whole song…

A Different Perspective

But perhaps because of my state-of-mind or perhaps it was my lack-of-a-state-of-mind, this song resonated strongly. While listening, I started to hear it from a Big “L” Leadership perspective (See Big “L” Leadership at previous post The Leader’s Search for Self, Meaning and Spirit.)

I have no idea what the writer’s (Paul McCartney) perspective was when the song was written.  Maybe there is some deeper or mystical meaning in the song; maybe it is just about a fool.  As I let the lyrics play inside my head, I started to relate them to some of my experiences as a Leader, Leadership Development instructor and as an Executive Coach.

Please, put on your headphones and listen.

After all what our profession demands (I am talking to the Leaders Big “L” now) is hard to achieve and it requires a depth of knowledge and skill that the “carver’s hands” etches into our soul over time and experience throughout our life.

We are highly trained professionals. And as such, we are expected to deal effectively and ethically with many  issues like these:

  • Intra-psychic resistances
  • Denial and self-deception
  • Irrational behaviors and actions

We strive to be effective in improving cultures that do not support ethical values and fair treatment of people. We continuously work to develop high levels  trust and credibility in our relationships with a wide variety of people with whom we work.

This is why the lyrics of the song hit me so hard.

Same Song, Different Place

Another Fool On The HillAs the song begins, the lyric “nobody wants to know him, they can see that he’s just a fool” made me think of all the times when my ideas and expertise were not popular nor accepted (maybe not well understood) within management and client teams and I was the fool nobody wanted to know.

Have you ever felt like the “fool” when you are trying to execute change and improvements and every way you turn you bang into resistance from others even the company’s leaders?

It takes courage and conviction to be the fool and to not become discouraged and give up.

So the Leaders (Big L) persevere in spite of the obstacles!

The song’s refrain is “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, Sees the world spinning ’round.”  This made me think of all the times when, despite my (and others’) best efforts working hard each day, we were unable to produce any meaningful actions or changes that would help the company (as the sun goes down).

And, we kept working as time (days) passed (with the world-spinning round) and it seemed that all our hard work and expertise failed to produce sustainable change.  There were the occasional “aha moments” and some of our interventions produced that feel-good factor that soon dissipated.

  • Does “the fool on the hill” suggest that we need to accept our limitations and get over ourselves?
  • Can we accept just how ordinary we are in some situations?
  • How hard it is to be a conscious, grownup Leader (Big L)?
  • How hard is it to admit to ourselves that we all fail from time to time?

Take a look around. Time shows us how little we control.

Not On My Cloud

The song continues with the lyrics “Head in a cloud, The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud, But nobody ever hears him, or the sound he appears to make, and he never seems to notice…” This perspective made me think about how optimistic and positive we have to be to take on the types of assignments that define our work.

Are our heads in the clouds?

We use the vast array of systems like:

Theories | Practices | Tools

Interventions | Training | Coaching

Analysis | Experience | Judgment

to attempt to make new solutions visible and viable in the client system.

But when we do this, are there times when we are just “the man with a thousand voices that nobody hears?”

And, as we persist in executing our plans, do we sometimes fail to notice what the informal system is saying about us, the value of our work and our expertise in the “fool” conversations at the water cooler that are so common in the culture of most organizations?

Above It All

As Leaders (Big – L), we are true believers in the power of our roles so we learn to hold our noses and bite our tongues. At the higher levels of growth, we learn to respond with kindness and compassion in these situations.

At its worst, this criticism and resistance tests our character . At its best, it is an opportunity to deepen our learning and consciousness growth.

Mirror of OurselvesAgain the refrain:  “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning ’round.”  This reminded me that each day brings both opportunity and risk. Over time sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.  Regardless, we are obligated to put our best work on the table even if it is controversial.

The song continues with the lyrics, “And nobody seems to like him, they can tell what he wants to do, and he never shows his feelings…” This perspective reminds me of how lonely and alienated we can feel when it is an uphill climb to the bottom in some assignments.

In doing our work, our clients know we are obligated to hold up the mirror with the unpleasant image in it.

Dedicated To Purpose

We want to be liked and respected, but if it comes down to one or the other, the Leader (Big L) is going to choose being respected every time.  So we are obligated to do what we think is best for the client system including giving voice to the good, bad, and ugly we find in the organization.

During these times we may over-control our emotions (bury our feelings), smooth-over conflict, hold our noses, and try to take the high road when the client system may be better served if we were toburn their cover and bust their games.”

Thus the lyrics, “And he never listens to them, He knows that they’re the fools, They don’t like him,” This pretty much sums up how to be excellent in our profession, we have to become true believers in our dedication and commitment to stand for what we believe is right and just.

Lead Like A Leader

We need thick skin because the problem with change is that everybody thinks it is about somebody else, Consequently, someone is going to feel wronged in the process and blame us.

World Spinning RoundIn my experience in consulting and coaching, there are very few (little l) leaders that can resist playing the blame game or choosing a scapegoat in support of their false reality and their familiar comfort zone.

Once again the refrain:  “But the fool on the hill, Sees the sun going down, And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning ’round.”

Time goes by each day, the sun goes down, and once more, we offer up our very best making progress in some areas and not much in others.  So the world keeps spinning round for as long as we are here and we are responsible for everything we do.

So we “fools” follow Dr. Kopp wise recommendation and we, “learn to forgive ourselves again and again and again and again…”

Some questions to ponder:

  • Is our work a version of The Fool On The Hill song?
  • Are we the fool with “a thousand voices hoping we will be heard?”
  • Are we a fool to be disliked because we want to change the system for the betterment of all?
  • Are “they” the fools simply entrenched in functional blindness or the comfort of their reality?
  • Are we all fools in the game of life and the dance of ego, power, and the need to be always competent and approved of?

I welcome your comments and thoughts.

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”  — Friedrich Nietzsche

Doug Ramsey is Managing Director at Designed Management, LLC
He helps with Performance Improvement, Change Mgmt Consulting & Coaching

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