07 Feb

Want stability in your organization? Move fast. No. Even faster.

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In his book, Thanks For Being Late, Thomas L. Friedman recounts the advice from an Olympic Kayak medalist: To enhance stability in rapids it’s important to move as fast or faster than the current. Every time you rudder or drag your paddle in the water to steer you lose momentum and that makes you more vulnerable to flipping over.

This should be a warning for leaders who believe that they take the safe route when they choose a wait-and-see-attitude when things heat up. I am not promoting that we jump on every band wagon traversing the horizon, and if you know anything about me, you know I’m a plan freak, but keeping up with technology is becoming the single most important competitive edge for companies of any size. When I say keeping up with technology, I include upgrading tools, but it’s the mindset of expecting, managing, and even pushing for even faster change, that I am addressing here.

How often are projects put on hold while you implement the reorg; the new ERP system; the migration to Office 365; the latest acquisition? Stressed? Think about this: If Moore’s Law doesn’t care about your need to find islands of time to get settled in the “new environment” now, how do you think it will feel like in five years or ten? Now imagine that things will change more in the next ten years than they have in the past forty. For many, that’s a reasonable assumption.

The new environment is: move fast now. Ironically, it’s also the old environment. Heraclitus, in about 500 BC. commented, The only constant is change. And so it goes.

But it’s different now. Change is happening so rapidly that we must scrupulously re-examine and adjust our companies’ cultures to not fall into the trap of promoting the idea that change comes in the form of projects; little packages that are neatly planned, executed and integrated. Instead, we should be heralding in a new age of permanent flow. Actually, flow sounds too relaxed. Tsunami?

We still, and forever — mark my words, will need priorities and deadlines, but as technology propels us at greater and greater breakneck speeds, it will become increasingly important that individuals are given more responsibility for judgement and decision making. Steering from the top, as one president will soon learn, is over. An organization fighting to navigate rough waters by attempting to go against nature will, like a kayak, flip over because the uncontrollable flow of technology runs too quickly to navigate top down and trying to slow it or ignore it, as the case may be, only creates instability.

To compensate, organizations will need to better communicate goals and objectives at much faster velocities. More than ever, connecting with company values (not the ones on the wall, but the ones that are supported and referred to on a regular basis in all parts of the organization) will need a resurgence and its function raised to a higher status than is usually the case.

This requires us to not only upgrade communication tools, but also educate and support the soft skills that all too often take a beating around budget time.

What does this mean from a practical standpoint? It means that if you haven’t mapped out your workflows to enable rapid continuous improvements; if you are not becoming flatter as an organization to shorten the distance between the leadership and the ground forces; if you continue to do massive reorgs (waterfall) instead of continuously adjusting (agile); and if you keep pushing off projects based on what your organization can absorb instead of making projects more absorbable, your kayak is going to flip.

We used to say, Embrace change. Today it’s: Don’t stop to embrace change.  The mindset, therefore, should be: Paddle faster when the flow is going too fast. Counterintuitive? Not really. As long as you’ve got a value-based culture, capable direction, great teams, continuous improvement, and your eye on the customer, you’ll still be paddling because inertia will be on your side. The alternative is much worse.

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08 Jan

Atrendia Friday Video 32: What it takes to be a great leader

by Roselinde Torres

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In this TED video, Roselinde Torres shares with us what it takes to be a great leader in the 21st century, and she does so with conviction.

Can you answer these three questions?

  1. Where are you looking to anticipate change?
  2. What is the diversity measure of your network?
  3. Are you courageous enough to abandon the past?

Duration: 09:19

Find out more about our Executive Leadership Coaching Program.

Click HERE to watch the video.

Happy Friday!

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22 May

Atrendia Friday Video 29 – Everyday Leadership

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In this TED video, Drew Dudley (tell me his parents didn’t name him after some fictional cowboy figure), helps us recognize the power of everyday leadership.  It’s an amazing concept that we should all aspire to.  Drew talks about a “lollypop moment”.  It’s a moment that I think many of us, as leaders and as regular “Joes”, can relate to.

An inspiring talk.

Duration: 06:14

Find out more about our Executive Leadership Coaching Program.

Click HERE to watch the video.

Happy Friday!

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21 Apr

Guest blog: Do you want to lead? or have someone follow?

by Sharon Drew Morgen

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Sharon-Drew Morgen

I’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.

Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.

What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.


Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to

  1. Facilitate congruent change and choice,
  2. in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
  3. enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
  4. to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
  5. within the parameters of the required change.

It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.

Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.

This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.

  • Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
  • Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.

Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.


Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:

Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.

Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.

Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.

New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:

  1. Listen for systems.This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
    2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
    3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.

If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard?  She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generation

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15 Feb

Atrendia Friday Video 11 – Itay Talgam – Lead like the great conductors

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I LOVE this Ted video.  Many of you know that before becoming a consultant I conducted symphony orchestras, and it is from this musical tradition that I received most of my leadership skills and philosophy.  Itay Talgam perfectly captures the various ways that conductors lead musicians (employees) and he deftly illustrates how different forms of leadership impact the orchestra (your business).

Carlos Kleiber, in my estimation the greatest conductor who ever mounted a podium, is featured; as is Leonard Bernstein.  I had the great pleasure of meeting Maestro Bernstein once, but not in a way you might expect.  I brought him room service (working as a waiter while in graduate school) the year before he died.  Black coffee and cinnamon toast before his concert. I was actually a waiter in the main dining hall, so I had to bribe the room service waiter with five dollars.  I still have the order with Bernstein’s signature.

Itay Talgam

Duration: 20:52

Click here to enjoy the video

Find out more about our Executive Leadership Coaching Program

Happy Friday!

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01 Feb

Atrendia Friday Video 9 – Dr. Patrick Dixon – Leadership and motivation at work

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In this youtube video, Dr Patrick Dixon speaks about leading by leading by helping people connect with their passion.

We’ve all heard this message before in various books and speeches, so it is not that I hope to introduce something new but to inspire you to continue on this path and to rejuvenate your commitment to helping your employees find or maintain their passions in and outside your business.  In the end it is passion which drives us – not our paycheck and not the threat of negative consequences.

Dr. Patrick Dixon

From Wikipedia: Dr Patrick Dixon is an author and business consultant, often described as a futurist. In 2005 he was ranked as one of the 20 most influential business thinkers alive according to the Thinkers 50 (a private survey printed in The Times). He is Chairman of the trends forecasting company Global Change Ltd,founder of the international AIDS agency ACET, and Chairman of the ACET International Alliance. Dixon was included in the Independent on Sundays 2010 “Happy List“, with reference to ACET and his other work tackling the stigma of AIDS.

Click here to start the video

Duration: 3:20

Link to the Atrendia Executive Leadership Coaching Program

Happy Friday!

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17 Dec

The benefits of a culture that puts problem solving ahead of the blame game

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I had an excellent session with a client today in which he told me about how he had to bring one of his employees into his office to remind him that, ”we simply can’t make these mistakes around here”.  My client told me that he had berated the employee with calm but stern voice, meaning that his intention was to wag a finger not kick him in the pants.

I thought about how many times I had done the same thing with my employees. And what do we get out of it? Will your employee improve? Will you score points with your employee? Is the employee grateful to be working at Acme Inc. now that you have laid out the law of the land? Have you solved anything? Have you ensured that the problem won’t repeat itself?

Situations where employees don’t perform well are indicators. The mistakes are the messengers, and we all know that we shouldn’t kill the messenger – which is why we shouldn’t labor about the individual errors that we find out about because without them we wouldn’t know where our challenges lie, and in turn, we would be unaware of our flaws. Let’s face it, no one likes to go to their boss when they have screwed up, but imagine if that culture were turned around and you actually won from doing just that.

It is our responsibility as leaders to transcend the anger and frustration (emotional baggage that follows us from difficult situation to difficult situation) that often comes with the disappointment of having found out that an employee has not lived up to our expectations. We can either focus on their mistakes or ensure that they won’t happen again, but just as we can’t go east when we go west, we can’t do both simultaneously.

There is the famous Stephen Covey quote that reminds us of how critical it is to ponder this idea:

Between stimulus and response, there is a space
In that space is our power to choose our response
In that response lies our growth and our freedom.

If we really want to lead in a positive direction then the choice to berate or support is obvious. The next common mistake in this situation is to then fix the problem instead of helping the employee understand that everyone makes mistakes, but they are accountable for theirs. This means that they should find a solution for preventing this problem from happening again. That might entail them asking your for help if they get stuck. (But they should get stuck first)

Imagine if your employees came to you with solutions for problems that they didn’t foresee earlier:

Rick, I missed the shipment to our number two customer yesterday because I failed to see the ticket. I’m sorry about that and I have done A, B and C in order to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

That would be a lot better than you finding this out from your number two customer, and since the employee came with a solution you will naturally be much calmer and perhaps even praise your employee for their insight and sense of accountability.

Not all employees do this naturally (actually rarely), so it’s up to you as a leader to invoke this methodology into your culture. The first few times are not easy, and you may be gritting your teeth, but after a while you, your employees and most importantly your customers will reap the benefits of a culture that puts problem solving ahead of blame game.

The best way to initiate this change is to be very transparent. Let them know that you want to move in this direction and that like every habit it will take time. Admit to them that you haven’t been good at it in the past but that you are obviously committed – especially now that they will be looking to see that you keep your word. This will actually help you to stay true to your promise – an excellent one to keep.

The truth is, that unless you lead this, and humbly so (admitting your mistakes along the way), it will not happen and you will miss out on an opportunity much more valuable than an order from your number two customer. As a matter of fact, if you do embrace this idea there is a good chance that your number two customer might become your number eight or nine or even better.

My client took this as a learning lesson.  Will you?


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