Thought Piece

21st Century Business Ideas 

Enlightened Teamwork – “The Wonders of Work-Pairing.”

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

“How many times are two heads better than one?”



 Some while back this writer was involved with an executive team of seven, as they set about envisioning their way forward. After around 2-3 hours of highly engaged discussion, they had clarified their way forward along with its associated key issues. They prioritized those issues from their final listing to produce a top three.


Shortly after, their leader encouraged them to pair-up in a complementary manner, based upon prior-objective-personal-survey insights, and then each pair volunteered to focus on one of those top three priorities. Such priority-action reinforced the art of trying not to focus on too many things at once. An hour or so later, each pair had developed an on-going action initiative; covering the headings – What? How? Who? When? Where? – the last being where they go for allies outside of their domain. Their initiatives were formulated to

optimally resolve and implement items associated with their key chosen priority.  It was then vital for their group leader to encourage progress by showing ongoing interest until completion and then celebrate success. By celebrating success in an inexpensive and sincere manner, the chances are the team and pairs will look forward to doing it again.


Just recently, this writer was also involved with a team of five executives. Coupled with their leader, there were four on this senior team. So, the four set-about discussing their forthcoming issues and to eventually rank-order them. Once prioritized, they formed two pair-sets to create action initiatives and move ahead with implementation. Again, their leader proceeded to encourage and keep them focused until completion. Celebrating their success was also essential.


Work-pairing – used correctly – can be highly effective, but is too often an underutilized approach for getting important things accomplished. We’ve clung to the traditional way of doling out individual assignments and then expecting solo efforts to take care of them. Around 23% of any typical organization will be comfortable working solo, because those people enjoy showing their singular prowess. However, that grows increasingly less likely with your remaining work-force, where people would prefer collaborating with colleagues to give them encouragement and reinforcement.


While more selective recruiting to tap into that top 23% of performers may help, there’s only so far a growing organization can exploit such hiring strategies before it hits up against the realities of our population’s natural distribution curve. Besides, most other traditional organizations crave such a demographic, too. So what do you do?


Even though work-pairing can do valuable things even among your top 23% of solo performers as well, it will particularly help working wonders among the next 50% who will really value it. Whenever appropriate, by pairing people up with complementary personalities and naturally qualified colleagues, you will realize much greater performance and focus. A high percentage of people don’t particularly like working alone – we are a gregarious species after-all – so will naturally respond more favorably when paired with a competent colleague. Of course it makes sense to expose them to some sensible work-pairing guidelines, so as to help the arrangement work to everyone’s advantage.


One client has struggled for many years to find better ways of onboarding and retaining its frontline workplace people. By chance, it put together two talented young ladies, with a human-resource orientation, where almost overnight they developed proposals and an action initiative for making significant progress. Another client had been struggling with productivity issues within a unionized workforce. It proceeded to find a willing pair to research options, study other similar organization working environments, make proposals, and then implement a package of activities to make considerable progress.


This is all a far cry from the traditional project group, consisting of many diverse people around a table, to brainstorm, form committees, and then proceed as a group to put its proposals into action. That action is often pursued by solo individuals or sub-committees. It’s often a lottery as to how such arrangements produce results, relative to the advantages of utilizing work-pairing. In fact, if you wish to form such project groups, then you should subsequently break them down into pairs when looking for action. Once they have outlined their project framework and identified the key issues, pairs will then feel empowered to move ahead.


Having said all this, work-pairing at its best requires selecting optimum, complementary pairs. This can be done either

on an ad-hoc basis, where you allow people to choose those they wish to work with, or you can take a more interventionist approach. On occasions the ad hoc approach may work, with the caveat that many pairs may not make all the progress you had hoped for. Too often, in such situations, people may pick someone similar to themselves in a work environment; although less likely to do so when picking a life-long partner. Most successful life-long partnerships are where people choose someone complementary to themselves.


While picking someone similar to yourself in a work environment may generate good rapport, the pair may not progress too far with like-minded ideas. They may even become frustrated with each other as they find themselves somewhat spinning their wheels. Consequently, more deliberative and objective pair-choosing is likely to produce much better outcomes. Such pairing requires either rather objective thinking by group leaders or the support of an objective but constructive personality type survey. Either way, it’s better to have complementary pairing rather than like-oriented pairs.


We already see many examples of work-pairing around us in everyday life: pilot-pairs in cockpits, police patrols in pairs, ambulance crews work in pairs, military teams work in pairs, and so on. Clearly these are highly sensitive roles, but it does highlight the importance of pairs taking care of special assignments. One could reasonably argue that most organization activities worth doing would benefit from pairing; realizing that some roles are more important than others.


Even so, the benefits of pairing include – two heads are often better than one, the possibility to encourage each other, learning from each other, greater chance of meeting critical deadlines, holding each other to commitments, dual handling of timelines and pressures, hassle free vacation time, covering for each other in personal emergencies, higher overall effectiveness – go a long way toward offsetting perceived additional investments with such arrangements.


Beyond anything else, with the right pairing there’s likely to be better morale, more creativity and greater all round success.  Take a good hard look and you will find opportunities abound for work-pairing within your organization. You won’t regret it.


To learn more about team building, please contact:  Peter A. Arthur-Smith at or 1-917-912-3829

Enlightened Teamwork – “Tale of Two Superbowl Teams”

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

“Peerless Patriots will give Bellichick record 5th title,” George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel Sports Columnist, February 5th, 2017.

“High-flying Falcons will get dynasty-busting win,” Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel Sports Columnist, February 5th, 2017.

 Two sports journalists traded their Superbowl barbs on the Orlando Sentinel’s front sports-page section. Their columns were side by side. Also, their banter was not particularly polite or sportsman like, as they trotted-out their biased forecasts of how their team would win. Naturally they were glowing about the positive attributes of “their team” and obviously lambasted the opposing side…despite each team having done incredibly well to get to the Superbowl final. So much for sports-journalism.

Then there were early TV sightings of the two team coaches on the sidelines as the game got under way. Dan Quinn, the Falcons coach, pacing backward and forward, shouting encouragement to his players; gesticulating in all manner of ways when game-

calls were not going the Falcons’ way or players were not performing to his liking. Opposite to that was Bill Bellichick, the Patriot’s coach, who walked at a crawling-pace along his sideline with an expressionless face and taking the occasional note. At least he was up for his fifth Superbowl win.


Falcons’ players took charge during the first half and racked-up 21 points to the Patriots 3. The Falcons team seemed to be fielding a young, dynamic team, who appeared to master the Patriots at every turn. They added to their score early in the third-quarter taking the score to 28-3. Now the question was, “How big would the Falcon score be at the final bell, as they seemed to be steamrolling to victory?”


It didn’t happen. Tom Brady, the Patriot’s quarterback, started to find his receivers. His forward line started giving him greater protection. His team began to find its offensive rhythm. Meantime, the Patriot’s defensive team began to find its form as the top NFL defensive side. It began to frustrate and squelch the talented Falcons offense.


At full-time the Patriots had miraculously tied the game at 28-28. Never before in Superbowl history had a team come from so far behind to create the first ever overtime play. The Falcons had been stopped dead in their tracks after their 28 point score. After a short break, both teams headed into a 15 minute overtime play and it was the Patriots who came out on top with a final touchdown for 34 points. What happened?


Was it the difference in coaching styles? Was it the difference in player experience? – The Falcons had a highly talented, young side, including its capable quarterback, Aaron Young; while the Patriots appeared much more seasoned with a record-breaking quarterback, Tom Brady. – Was it the difference in preparation? Did one team have a better game-plan than the other? Was it the difference in teams feeling a greater sense of empowerment to play the game the way the situation warranted? Was the game pretty much decided on these factors before either team stepped onto the field?


Your writer now wishes to make the case that is was probably the difference between PEACAM and CIGFAM, in the way that the two teams were motivated, that likely decided the game before it was played. Notwithstanding that the Patriots had some real scary moments during the first half, but they ultimately sustained their poise, experience and leadership to help them win the day. We discussed the differences between PEACAM and CIGFAM in our recent Phase 3 – Enlightened People Engagement article. Now we can apply it.


Drawing upon the acronym PEACAM, it is possible to see that:


» P= a sense of Purpose – The Patriots likely had a far bigger reason to prevail. Other than to be viewed as the winning side, they also wished to put their “Deflategate” controversy behind them once and for all.


» E= feeling of Equality – Bellichick’s players really appreciated their coach because he wasn’t yelling at them from the sideline. At all times he treated them with respect and a sense of dignity as he felt they knew what they were doing. He also had a reputation of kidding around with them off the field to build solid relationships.


» A= passion for Achievement – Patriot’s players were not looking for stardom. They wanted to succeed together.

There was a sense that the less experienced Falcons’ players liked gloating and strutting around on their individual successes.


» C= pull of Camaraderie – Patriots players later recorded that they stuck together despite their early setbacks. Perhaps the Falcons were still learning to pull-together and hang-in there when the going gets tough.


» A= joy of Autonomy – With the antics of Coach Quinn on the sideline, it wasn’t quite clear how much he trusted his players to empower them. Apparently, Bellichick said very little to his team at half-time, despite their big deficit. Maybe he had greater faith in his players, than Quinn did in his, to find a way back.


» M= comfort of Mastery – Besides having a renowned quarterback in Tom Brady, maybe greater overall preparation and skill-mastery threw the game the Patriot’s way in vital moments during the third and fourth quarters. They were better at executing plays, certainly in the second-half, when it came to extra-point plays after three touch downs.


On the other hand, it appeared that Falcons worked the usual CIGFAM motivational game. Where C= Competition – Falcons seemed aggressively competitive, which can often wither when under pressure. I= Incentives –A young relatively inexperienced side is likely to over-glow the financial gains of winning. G= Goals – A team obsessed with goals could potentially cool-off when it is so far ahead of its agenda. F= living in Fear – Judging by the Falcons Coach’s sideline antics, an observer is likely to wonder what might be in store if a player made the wrong move. A= Accountability – Too much accountability can seem like an awesome responsibility when you’re a young player. M= Measurement – It wouldn’t surprise this writer if Falcons players felt they were being measured every-way, which-way. That can wear a little thin after a while.


During the after-game commentator analysis with some of the Patriots, it appeared that they always saw their win as inevitable. They just had to figure it out. Even so, it wouldn’t surprise this writer if it all came down to the difference between PEACAM and CIGFAM, and how the former forged a much more compelling team spirit than the latter – despite traditional thinking.


Enlightened Teamwork – “Communication is a Two-way Street”

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

“The leaders of the world aren’t a very impressive group right now…Many are young, yet so much around them feels tired.” Peggy Noonan in WSJ Review article, ‘A World in Crisis, and No Genius in Sight’ – July 2016



    Communication is the lifeblood of all dynamic and effective organizations. And yet, all the signs are that we’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to understanding the nature of communication within them.


We’ve made certain strides when it comes to connecting with the masses or selling our products or services. However, with those inside our ventures or specific audiences we wish to engage, we still have a long way to go. It’s the next big door to open for really achieving full participation and optimizing our people’s contributions.


You’re already stunned. “What’s the beef?” you’re asking. Our reality is that we’re still largely bound by a ‘one-way’ versus ‘two-way’ communication approach. “What’s the difference?” you may ask. Apart from the enormous difference in participation and output two-way dialog brings; one-way is where executives rattle-off their expectations, along with their rules and overall narrative, and then expect everything to fall into place.


Governments do it, institutions do it, companies do it, and most other types of organizations do it, too. They cannot help themselves because that’s the way it’s always been done, since time immemorial. Tell your staff what needs to be done and then expect it to happen. You already appreciate this very commonplace way of doing things; but that doesn’t mean to say that it’s right!


If only organizations realized how much they’re missing by sticking with the one-way, communication status-quo, then that would be half the battle. An astute business leader this writer is familiar with, who has developed an alternative, highly successful business model, which is being studied by many, has placed productivity in our typical, one-way communication organizations at anywhere between 15-37%. By this writer’s book that’s a pretty fair estimate.


Since this mid-western business leader’s ventures have worked extremely hard at two-way communication, all the indications are that his localized, integrated businesses achieve at least twice that amount. His ventures are full of highly engaged people, who are pretty upbeat most of the time, and all entities are appropriately profitable.


He doesn’t need to borrow money because their cluster of ventures generates all the growth capital needed. His staff doesn’t need to worry about national or international expansion, since they accomplish all their incredible growth from the local economy…and it’s not a small business enterprise either. Look up his venture, Zingerman’s, in Ann Arbor.


The other half of the battle is engendering the desire within executives and “supervisors” for change. Most organizations don’t possess that appetite for change. They would much rather go on digging the same hole, even though there’s no real gold in it anymore, rather than go and dig another hole somewhere else with far greater prospects. Starting at the very pinnacle: so many country governments need to change, to really help their people, but they persistently stick with the status-quo. (Note our opening quote: ‘The leaders of the world aren’t a very impressive group right now.’)


The reality is that those leaders and so many in executive ranks aren’t really leaders. They are more venture managers who prefer efficiency approaches, which keep their entities ticking over and their rewards intact. That way, they are more likely to remain at the helm and minimize any growth headaches. On one level you can’t blame them. On another, it makes you want to pull your hair out; when you think of the wasted opportunities and how everyone’s prospects are minimized owing to executive self-interest…they’re always pushing against this reality at Zingerman’s.


Two-way communication is one heck of a powerful tool for breaking through this conundrum. Two-way means, not only are the executives fully heard, but everyone else within the organization is fully heard, too…including the people on the frontline. Trouble is: we’re still living in times where the frontline folks are still working in a world where, “Your’s is not the reason why: your’s is just to do or die!”


Such thinking is so fallacious in this day and age, where people in advanced nations are way better educated to be exposed to such attitudes. They are more worldly through media access and are willing to contribute if given the right opportunity. Trouble is, so many executives either don’t know how to tap into this well-spring of capability or perhaps aren’t interested in doing so; because they wish to perpetuate the status-quo. Only when in deep trouble are they willing to consider alternatives, but then it’s too often, too late.


Quite off the bat, let’s take two great scenarios to consider the power of two-way communication:

» Engaging our people – An area where this writer has often been involved, is to facilitate the full-engagement of an organization’s people in its future prospects – for both non-profit and for-profit entities. Given the right opportunity and setting, people love to pitch-in on where their venture is heading. But few organizations do so because they either feel their people have nothing to contribute or they find it easier to keep them in the dark.

The concept of fully-engaging your people through two-way communication is relatively simple but powerful. Even so, executives often share complex reasons for not pursuing such ideas…including traditional thinking. Full-engagement, two-way communication basically follows 7 moves:

  • Leader proposes an outline vision-framework for their enterprise.
  • Leader shares and encourages adjustments and additions to this framework by his/her executive team as a way of gaining its buy-in.
  • Executive team forms paired-teams among themselves to pursue the most promising initiatives.
  • Paired-executive teams enlist up to 4-5 from across their enterprise, for joining each executive-pair in fleshing out practical, priority growth initiatives. Such sub-teams create strong, identifiable team names to capture the attention of the whole organization and build team camaraderie.
  • Sub-teams put together detailed action initiatives, which are then shared with the entire organization. At this moment, anyone from across the venture who wishes to join the sub-teams is invited to do so.
  • Sub-teams keep originating leader informed of progress, as well as other sub-teams, to sustain enthusiasm across the board.
  • When enough progress has been made, the exercise is repeated through fresh strategic growth initiatives.

(NOTE: Such an approach creates enormous energy and commitment within an organization.)


»Engaging an Audience – How often have you participated in a forum audience with a panel of experts on the stage? Have you become bored with less than stellar speakers? How often do you feel you are being ‘talked-at’ rather than being fully engaged in the forum; with the opportunity to express ideas and opinions, and even seek a little advice? That’s why you’re there, after all, right?

    Instead, let the forum moderator and the expert panelists give their brief pitch. Then:

  • Allow the audience to sub-divide to as many tables as there are expert panel
  • Allow audience members to engage with their chosen panelist at that table.
  • Where time permits, allow audience members to rotate among tables – say at least three moves.
  • Toward the forum’s end, allow expert panelists to summarize the nature of their table discussions.
  • Provide an opportunity at the end, for audience members to connect with other like-minded members to pursue helpful initiatives.
  • Where possible, connect panelists with any ad-hoc, initiative teams that are formed – where those panelists are willing to do so – to encourage progress on the initiative at hand.

(NOTE: Such a two-way approach creates great enthusiasm among the audience: and the panelists are able learn a lot, too.)


There are many other scenarios where two-way communication will bring significant advances over our traditional one-way approach. Oodles of energy and commitment are generated at the above examples. So what are you afraid of, apart from experiencing levels of engagement and commitment you cannot handle?


Jim Leonhard –California – (916) 550 7075 or

Olger Draijer –Europe-(+352) 45 88 35 or

Paul Schonenberg – Europe – (+352) 621 23 3131 or

Peter A. Arthur-Smith – New York- (212) 332-8907 or

© 1994-2016 Leadership Solutions, Inc (MALRC) All rights reserved


To learn more about two-way communication, talk with:

Arnie Friedland -Long Island – 1- 516-446-6447 or

Chris Garratt –Europe- (+352) 2631 3384 or

Denise Lalonde – New York- (212) 974 1438 or

Ed Frontera – Florida – (561) 715 0447 or

Esther Celosse – Europe – (+33) 658 867 350 or


21st Century Business Ideas 

Enlightened Pathfinding: Let’s Move on from Strategic Planning and Instead… 

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.


“Strategic planning is an oxymoron – strategy cannot be planned because planning is about analysis and strategy is about synthesis.” Henry Mintzberg’s book ‘The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning’ (Free Press – 1994) Former President of the Strategic Planning  Society: two-time winner of prestigious McKinsey Award for best Harvard Business Review article.


Strategic planning played its part in nearly driving us over a cliff during the Great Recession. Why? Because it kills creative thinking, encourages lack-luster visions, precludes most stakeholders, and promotes undue structure and process.

» Kills Creative Thinking – It is a mechanism founded on analysis, which, in itself, switches off our intuitive imagination. On one level people love logical appro-aches without appreciating that they subdue our ability to think outside-the-box. Strategic plans usually end up in lengthy written documents that scare most people within an organization from reading them. Just think of those books heavy on economics you’ve been exposed to; without having a particular appetite for the subject.


» Encourages Lack-luster Visions – More often than not, strategic plans take a linear, deductive approach. Numerous entrepreneurs side-step strategic plans because they lack flexibility, lock them into stifling paths, and give scant room for flair or imagination. By the time the “planners” leading such an exercise have finished, they’ve usually drained any potential fun, passion or compelling vision out of the event.


» Precludes Stakeholders – Most strategic plans are focused on owner, shareholder or board member expectations. Little time is spent on the expectations of other stakeholders: such as customers, workforce, managers-leaders, suppliers, alliances, industry assoc-iations, and so on. Without translating owner-shareholder expectations into the specific expectations of all other stakeholders, any planning document is of little interest to them.

» Promotes Undue Structure and Process – Strategic plans promote hierarchical thinking. They encourage a slavish rather than an empowered approach. Hier-archies induce barriers to new ideas at all levels, as well as reduce participation. Structure and process rely on systems and systems often create “red tape.” Just think of the many government departments that are so bureaucratic that they are tied together by “red tape.”

    Strategic planning encourages other unhelpful features such as: minimizing context and relying on narrow goals, focusing on too many issues at once, and fostering command and control. No wonder many are put on shelves or are unconsciously “shelved”  by those they affect. Strategic planning played its part in driving the Great Recession by ignoring the economic warning signs, while driving unsustainable profits and growth.

Instead, we should be drawing upon strategic frame-works. These are much more flexible pictures highlighting a compelling vision, sensible related objectives, ground-breaking know-how and valuable resources. Furthermore, they pinpoint all likely stakeholders, along with their expectations, and focus on outputs that gain people’s attention.

Compared with the listed strategic planning factors, let’s take a look at where  strategic framing scores:

»Creativity – By its use of positive and challenging questions and diagrams or pictures, it calls upon participants’ intuitive capabilities. The latter activity allows an opportunity for imaginative thinking. With the right facilitation, it helps build conversations and encourages as much “idea flow” as is possible.

»Visions – Drawing upon this intuitive  activity, participants can reach for appropriate insightful metaphors. Pictures can say a thousand words, while metaphors can define a thousand pictures. Free-flow conversation to find the most exciting metaphor  will, more often than not, release an inspiring vision.

»Stakeholders – Strategic framing is designed to identify all known stakeholders and their expectations. Once these are spelled out, most stakeholders will show considerably more interest in the exercise and play their part in realizing its intentions. This is done in a way that increases overall understanding.

»Focus and Principles – Strategic frameworks provide focus more than structure and the ability to adapt while moving forward. They also benefit from key principles, offering greater latitude and empowerment, rather than relying upon the regimentation of process.

On virtually every point associated with strategic planning, strategic framing wins out. Framing provides the scope, engagement and flexibility to meet faster-moving organizational environments. Since it taps into the incredible power and speed of our intuitive mind, it is much more time effective than planning exercises.

   It’s never too late to start a strategic framing exercise, especially as it’s better to have a framework than not one at all. Not to have a strategic framework for your organization is like having a ship without a rudder. You’ll be all over the place and your people will have no idea where your organization is going. Besides, if you have a compelling vision, it’s like having a huge magnetic force that’s drawing everyone toward it.

  So, start tomorrow. Start thinking about your grand strategy, your current and future products-services, as well as other factors which LSI is happy to share. Then figure out the vital know-how required to pursue this, as well as the essential resources. You’ll now be in a position to determine the near-term operational and human outcomes your organization can attain to propel your organization forward. It’s not so difficult; it just needs your time and mindset to do it.

Next time someone suggests a planning exercise opt for framing instead… you’ll take a big step forward.

You can discover more about “strategic framing” by talking with:

Arnie Friedland -Long Island – 1- 516-446-6447 or

Chris Garratt –Europe- (+352) 2631 3384 or

Denise Lalonde – New York- (212) 974 1438 or

Ed Frontera – Florida – (561) 715 0447 or

Esther Celosse – Europe – (+33) 658 867 350 or

Jim Leonhard –California – (916) 550 7075 or

Olger Draijer –Europe-(+352) 45 88 35 or

Paul Schonenberg – Europe – (+352) 621 23 3131 or

Peter A. Arthur-Smith – New York- (212) 332-8907 or

© 1994-2016 Leadership Solutions, Inc (MALRC) All rights reserved

21st Century Business Ideas 

Our Gingerbread-House: How that Relates to Leadership?

 by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

“People, at best, only utilize 20% of their talents,” Albert Einstein

 Not long before the holiday season got into full swing, some good friends brought two of their children, from different sides of their family, to New York for tasting the city’s festive shows, lights, eating and shopping. But, as is normal with such visits, the burgeoning pre-teens hid away quietly – not to be heard – while the adults excitedly brought all sides up-to-date with their usual friendly chatter

Quite by chance, this writer snuck out to do some last-minute food shopping. While at the supermarket, he spied some gingerbread-house kits. He brought one home for the two pre-teenagers, who were still on their best behavior in an adjacent bedroom. Their eyes truly lit-up when they saw the package because now they could legitimately use their pent-up creative talents without in any way annoying their parents.

They did a magnificent job within a reasonably short space of time. Their sense of pride at their handiwork was abundant. Even so, since it took additional time to complete the model to their level of satisfaction, they eagerly returned to fine-tune it after each city jaunt; as they came back to home base. This fine-tuning activity occurred without any nudging or pushing by the adults. What happened here?

One thing we can safely observe is that, if we were to fast forward the clock on those two kids by ten years and catch them in their late teens, they probably would sneer at the prospect of building a gingerbread-house. By that time, their curiosity and imaginations would have been squelched to the point of no interest. What would’ve brought about such a change?

Such a reduction in offered imagination is a challenge experienced by so many executives today; who find it difficult to engage their staff creatively – especially among the younger members. Having said that, this writer has had plenty of opportunities to observe staff become creative and engaged; just as they were within their pre-teen years. Such observations confirm that such behavior is inherent in people but it seems to become dormant. It’s hidden away waiting to resurface at the right moment…witness parents with infants or young children and their inclination to revisit noises and behavior that they experienced when they were quite young!

Is it possible, because of the challenges of teenage life and how parents react to it, that the engaged, creative side of teens is turned off? Or is it transformed into aberrant behavior that’s discouraged at every turn? Parents don’t wish to be embarrassed by teenage extremes. Many young people – some estimates say 50% – never mature mentally beyond those tortured teenage years, when they were constantly upbraided by parents and adults.

So we return to the often asked question by executives: “How do I get my people to become more engaged and creative, without turning them off?” This writer’s answer is: through the practice of leadership more so than management. Manage-ment, with its controlling and measured approach, is too reminiscent of teenager-parents. It locks people down so that their creative and engaged switches remain turned off.

On the other hand, leadership with its inspiring people focus has much more chance of releasing those locked-down engagement and creativity valves. Of course, every workplace person is different and the damage inflicted during their teenage years creates its own challenges, even for the best of leaders. In many cases, it takes a lot of humorous corralling and patience to unlock that hidden imagination once again – to bring out that pre-teen engagement and curiosity.

It reminds this writer of a story a colleague once shared,  about an old curmudgeon he had on one of his European teams. The man was always complaining and known as being outright difficult with his colleagues: even though he had a lot of good experience and wisdom. Over time, in one of my colleague’s latter career assignments, he was challenging his team members to meet a number of customer service challenges throughout his European business domain. However, Fritz, always his usual self, was being difficult and unwilling to travel anywhere.

One day Fritz disappeared and my colleague and his home-base team members started looking for him after a day or so. Eventually they tracked him down. Quite by surprise, he had travelled to another European city to join colleagues for dealing with a particular major fix. Fritz did his stuff and returned with his beaming colleagues. What happened?

After all the nudging and leadership challenging, Fritz’s creative and engagement switches were turned on; quite contrary to the typical threats and bribes traditional managers tend to use. He was so proud of himself for helping out and enjoyed handling the difficult customer situation. He probably felt exactly the same way as our two pre-teen guests did when they built their gingerbread-house.

So the moral of this story is: that it’s the right leadership that turns the engagement and imagination switches on.  Sometimes it takes a good deal of patience and leadership  insight, as in Fritz’s case, to make this happen. A combination of efforts may be needed to find the right switch to turn on. Of course, for a variety of reasons, there are those people whose personality has become so depressed, through life’s growing up experiences, that you can never turn their special switches on.

In such instances, you probably need to counsel them over time, on where their greatest interests lie in life, and then, send them on a journey to another more appropriate in-house group where there may be a closer match. Alternatively, you should encourage them to leave and seek a role where they are better suited. You are doing them a favor; for their colleagues, too.

The experience of watching our two young guests avidly erect the gingerbread-house, rather than be self-banished to another corner of the apartment, so as not to be an undue distraction, was a stark reminder of the regular sight of lower-order workplace people being banished to the sidelines because of where they are in the pecking order. Also perhaps because they are not perceived as possessing the creativity or talents to contribute much beyond their current station. Is it conceivable that, if brought from  the shadows to address the right situation, that their engagement and creative switches may well be turned on, also. This is much more likely to occur where they are exposed to leaders more than managers.

Perhaps because many workplace people are over-managed by policies, procedures, compliance and control, their switches rarely get turned-on. Too bad for them and their enterprises.

Maybe a 2016 New Year’s resolution for you to use with your leadership talent,  is to cast around for a number of under-utilized people in your team or organization. Find out what’s most likely to turn their engagement and imagination switches on and then create the right circumstances for that to happen. With luck, you’ll have some highly productive company members and you’ll get some thorny issues addressed. In most cases, their talents are waiting to be tapped by using the right approach, rather than be lost in the shadows.


To learn more about leadership and the switches for creativity and engagement, talk with:

Arnie Friedland -Long Island – 1- 516-446-6447 or

Chris Garratt –Europe- (+352) 2631 3384 or

Denise Lalonde – New York- (212) 974 1438 or

Ed Frontera – Florida – (561) 715 0447 or

Esther Celosse – Europe – (+33) 658 867 350 or

Jim Leonhard –California – (916) 550 7075 or

Olger Draijer –Europe-(+352) 45 88 35 or

Paul Schonenberg – Europe – (+352) 621 23 3131 or

Peter A. Arthur-Smith – New York- (212) 332-8907 or

© 1994-2015 Leadership Solutions, Inc (MALRC) All rights reserved


Hiring by Computers or Humans?

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

“The whole process seems to need human skills that computers lack; like making conversation and reading social cues.” Article my Claire Cain Miller: NY Times, June 2015, ‘Can an Algorithm Hire Better than a Human.’


     Past years spent interviewing thousands of people over 30 plus years caused this author’s hackles to rise as he read the above article. It reminded him of the standing joke between him and his about to graduate MBA daughter: “You won’t meet any humans at any prospective employers until you’ve completed your initial job orientation. Until then all their hiring activities will be computerized!”

Setting humor aside, we’re fast going that way judging by the above article’s five plus quoted software-based companies that are aiming to automate the hiring process. In many ways they are onto a potential, golden racket because most employers and their staffs hate the traditional hiring process and interviewing. They would much rather just be negotiating a hiring deal with the perfect candidate. And this thinking is no less prevalent within the insurance industry…”Just present me with a top producer to hire. Forget all the interviewing!”

This all a pipe-dream of course because top producers are usually not available for hire. They’re doing very nicely where they are thank you! This leaves agencies and carriers to ferret out the high potential individuals who are the future top producers. Regrettably they will too readily be lured by the automation fraternity to computerize their hiring process.

Raising this topic is an important leadership and management issue because without good people around them neither insurance industry leaders nor managers can succeed. People expenditures absorb the majority of any agency or carrier’s  revenues.  And yet, the fact that there are serious current efforts being pursued to automate hiring activity, there is pause for serious concern about the future quality of many workforces. They will either be dysfunctional or bland with look-alikes at every turn.

Increasing numbers of insurance firms or agencies expect people to apply on-line, which can be a nightmare fitting into their exact protocols. A client recently spoke with me about his highly educated and personable son-in-law, who is frequently being turned down by automated systems for some reason that he doesn’t understand. I advised him to apply personally to the CEO or agency manager instead. At least these latter folks might get the message that their automated system is suspect.

This probably means the best candidates give up rather quickly and only the more desperate ones will hang in there. Woe betide if you have a foreign education because that won’t fit their protocols either. So a talented, well-educated, overseas insurance expert is lost as well. All in the name of automation.

Being a person with more than 10,000 hours experience within the hiring-selection field, this writer set the above article aside for a week or two to calm down; so as to become a little more objective about the automated-hiring proposition.

His own expert observations, combined with the interviewing horror stories his daughters have brought home, highlight a field requiring a full four year degree course in itself. Interviewing probably needs to be a field that is licensed rather like insurance agencies, CPAs,  physicians, dentists, etc, to be sure proper attention is being paid to such a crucial task. Not only are candidates exposed to shoddy interviewing standards, but insurance industry operatives are losing untold amounts of money based upon poor hiring decisions. And yet the amateurism persists.

 Placing square-pegs into round holes is rampant. As a reader by now, you’re probably feeling desperate because you pray for a quick and easy formula for hiring good insurance industry people. This writer regrets to disappoint you. One reason why good leaders succeed over the more traditional manager, is because they instinctively spend more time trying to hire the right people. The latter manager group are more apt to rely upon efficient systems to do it for them.

One of the biggest fallacies, off the bat, in the whole hiring process, is the belief that you can make good hires based upon resumes alone. That is the first sign of an amateur recruiter. It’s the equivalent of the amateur producer, who believes he-she can land an insurance contract every time they venture out on a cold call..

Being objective, there is a certain valid argument for using software programs for screening resumes against some key criteria. Although care needs to be taken to avoid the next leap of faith that computers can pick the winners. Even if you utilize screening tests, they have no validity unless you interview the person to find out if the results are more or less accurate. Some candidates do not have a valid picture of their of feelings and personality, which invalidates the profiles results right up front. Amateur test users fall foul of the fallacy that profile results are sacrosanct. They are not.

 Mind you, things are becoming increasingly more perilous in the US, aided by the tough job environment. Many States are now legislating that criminal records are no longer a legitimate basis for not hiring someone. Candidates must be given an opportunity to explain any judgments against them; this is over and above existing equal opportunity laws. This will create special headaches for insurance industry companies, since fiduciary issues are extremely important.

Reality shows, based upon many years of interviewing experience, that hiring organizations are challenged by the trade-off between a person’s experience and their personality (the latter being everything about them that distinguishes them from another person). Most organizations, for pragmatic hiring reasons, opt for experience over personality. Experience is much easier for them to assess and can also provide the promise of  early contributions toward  a particular position, as well as minimize training and orientation investments.

Such an expedient approach comes with a big potential cost. Personality always trumps experience at any point. This writer can point to countless examples of highly experienced executives and others, who are marginal in effectiveness, and would be regarded by colleagues as having personalities worthy of a big ho-hum yawn or as a pain-in-the-neck.

Just consider all the really successful career people. They all have personalities that are quietly or overtly memorable in some way or another. Even the quieter ones possess a certain subtle authority about them and probably have much hidden personal resolve under the surface. The question is, ‘How do you spot this up front?’

Enter the professional interviewer, rather than the genius with a hot software program that can do it all for you. We’re so tempted by the quick and easy solution, even though there are no easy answers when it comes to selecting the right people. Anymore than there’s a quick and easy answer to choosing the right insurance risks. There are plenty of examples of insuring the wrong person based upon their track record alone.

What does the professional interviewer do?

» Preparation – They really do their homework. They develop a picture of their carrier or agency and team’s culture and values, through it’s history, purpose, strengths, resources, team and leadership talents, as well as its future intentions.

» Recruitment Options – Based upon the picture profile that emerges from this preparatory step will determine different recruitment options. Included among these will be the most proven approach: personal introductions by people already within your team or enterprise – a “bounty” approach can help in connection with this mode.

» Interview Questions – These should be prepared for a three-step approach: initial, second and final interviews.

Initial – Looking at basic position-organization match. The same focused, “open-ended” ended questions should be asked of all candidates to determine approximate fit, since your mind can make useful comparisons, if you utilize exactly the same framework.

Second – Is almost entirely focused upon personality “fit” with highly targeted, “open-ended” questions related to your organization’s culture and role-staircase. You probably require an expert assist to formulate these.

Final – Presents an opportunity for both parties to pursue unanswered issues. It is strongly recommended to include a breakfast, lunch or early dinner to observe candidates in a more relaxed setting; especially for senior hires.

» Orientation – Effective “on-boarding” is a key step to successful hires. Taking new hires away for 2-3 days for “imprinting” can be especially beneficial for key or senior level hires. Effective ‘on-boarding’ is too often overlooked.

Again, effective hiring is a vital leadership and management function. Automation, used in a wise way can prove helpful, although you need to appreciate its biggest drawback – overlooking unorthodox potential. This writer can offer countless stories where the more unorthodox person has been hired and produced tremendous results. Your organization or agency has many of them today.

There’s something to be said for having a blend of personalities within any organization. Such a blend gives our organizations “character.” Try to avoid an over-reliance on automation of the hiring process, otherwise you might be in serious danger of overlooking talent and having a “characterless” insurance entity…all with the same litany of experience only. Computers cannot read personalities.  

This article is authored by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Founding Principal at Leadership Solutions, Inc®, New York –                                                                                   

Forget your Big Data Crush because you need Small Data, too!

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc

“Just trying to get a single, easy-to-measure number…(as per Big Data)…doesn’t actually help us make the right choice. For this reason, the key question isn’t ‘What did I measure?’ but ‘What did I miss?’.”Article NY Times, May 2015, entitled: ‘How Not to Drown in Numbers,’ by Alex Peysakhovich (behavioral economist and data scientist at Facebook) and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz (economist and former data scientist at Google).


    Big Data is driving us nuts. We’re spending $millions on it in the hope of finding a lot of quick and easy answers. Maybe we will. But it’s also possible that it may be a big pipe-dream.



Data scientists and economists, like the ones who authored the above quoted Times article, are at last beginning to question our stampede in this direction. They also went on to make another point: “If you’re trying to build a self-driving car or detect whether a picture has a cat on it, big data is amazing. But here’s a secret: If you’re trying to make important decisions about your health, wealth or happiness, big data is not enough.”


There’s a special “sauce” they also say is necessary to make big data work: consisting of surveys and the judgment of humans. They regard these latter two italicized components as old fashioned ingredients called small data.

Facebook author ‘AP’ above was obviously able to relate to his data experiences of monitoring member reactions  to particular newsfeeds. Facebook can quickly determine whether the newsfeed was ‘liked, clicked, commented on or shared.’ But it cannot determine the answers to opinion questions like – among others – ‘What was your member experience like?’ or ‘How did it make you laugh?’

Such examples begin to show likely holes in the pursuit of big data. Consider some alternative, typical workplace examples: ‘How do my people actually feel about their work environment?’, “To what extent are they inspired by it?’, ‘What could make it even more inspirational?’ Big data cannot measure these soft, small data issues. This goes for customer opinions, too.

That’s why this writer always includes opportunities for verbal comments in staff satisfaction surveys. Such comments  are vital for providing texture and insight to any survey data.

Managers are particularly drawn to big data because they are captivated by analysis, logic and rational reasoning. All of those are valid, although are not the only thing. Leaders, on the other hand, are more interested in people’s feelings, intuitive ideas, and soft expertise. Owing to our business history and conventional practices, we have more managers in our midst than leaders, hence the majority attraction toward big data. So, if we’re not careful, we’re in danger of becoming slaves to this latest craze.

What will it look like when we’ve become big data slaves? Well, we’ll definitely be slaves to numbers because big data relies on numbers. You’ll end up as a pure number and so will your colleagues; plus your family members, too. If you don’t have a number, you just won’t exist…just like prisoners or military personnel. Every object around you that you utilize will have a number, so you will refer to that object by its number instead of its name. All items on menus will have numbers, as well, as will so many other things that have names today.

If something doesn’t have a number associated with it, we won’t be able to make a decision related to it. Just look at store item bar codes and their associated numbers right now. It will become really boring to look at barcodes and numbers all day in our workplaces. Everything will become increasingly mundane, since our opinions won’t count unless they are related to numbers. Twitters, texts, emails, and other social media forms, are increasingly likely to be filled with acronyms or numbers. These formats will all fill our big data numbers craze. This writer apologizes for using prose in this article as opposed to a string of numbers J

What’s the alternative? Perhaps readers and executives will turn to small data before it’s too late. Maybe some elusive smart leaders among us will continue integrating small data into their decisions and steal a march on those big data folks. Such leaders will be far more accurate decision makers and better able to tune into their people’s passions. And so their ventures are likely to be more durable and dynamic and will literally fly past the stumbling big data entities.

So, if you view yourself as a leader, don’t feel diminished by the big data managers. As you can appreciate from the opening quote, there are increasing reservations out there. That’s likely to grow. You just keep plugging away in the small data zone, such as:

» Give your people a strong sense of role and enterprise purpose.

» Make them feel valued and well respected.

» Tune into their own sense of achievement; not your own.

» Encourage a feeling of camaraderie across the board.

» Show that you trust them and are willing to empower them.

» Give them every opportunity to master their particular role and tasks,

When making strategic and tactical decisions, look behind the numbers and find the small data by asking such questions such as:

»Why do people prefer to buy our products or services?

»What sort of packaging will attract buyers?

»What kind of new markets are out there for our products?

These are just some of the questions that big data cannot answer, since they are qualitative in nature rather than quantitative. Hence the limitations of big data versus small data. Use the former where you can, but don’t be mesmerized by it either.

Don’t forget: by better communicating with and engaging your people through small data activities, you’ll experience at least another 20-30% better overall performance than relying upon big data. Why is that? Because the positive environment you create will generate the goodwill for encouraging your people to produce more.

“Natural flow” or “Linear flow”?
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“…our recipes have to be clear enough and applicable enough so everyone in our organization can use them, yet flexible enough so they can be adapted to any situation.” P70 in book “Building a Great Business” by Ari Weinzweig at Zingerman’s, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Ari was referring to business recipes, even though his nine interrelated businesses are built around a highly successful deli. But when you usually think about recipes, you naturally think about home baking – right?

What do you do? More often than not, you throw all the suggested ingredients into a mixing bowl or mixer and then blend them. You put that blend into a baking pan or saucepan and allow it to bake or stew. If your recipe was correct, timing was right, and your heat appropriate, you will be beaming with success. This concept is simple and we’ve been using it for centuries.

However, since the emergence of Frederick Taylor and the industrial age, and now hugely reinforced by the absolute logic of the computer age, we have increasingly focused on linear systems. We have become slaves to linear sequences to most challenges within our organizational and personal lives. We take item A, then bolt-on item B, then add item C, then D and so on, and hope the linear sequence will give us a great outcome. This is called “linear flow.” And we’ve become addicts at a huge cost; all in the name of control…absolutely minimizing “risk.”

Admittedly, it surely makes things easier to understand, if we can lay everything out in a rational, linear sequence. But the real world doesn’t work like that. Pretty near everything that we see around us is a synthesis of many things. Life’s forces bring a recipe of certain things together and then synthesize them into a brick, a building, a flower, a roadway, a picture, a human being, beautiful Fall foliage, and so forth.

A recent article by a nationally known bioscience writer cum non-profit societal nudge, was lamenting our inability to solve the ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) puzzle. My intuitive reaction was that this lack of success is simply brought about by our reliance on logic and numbers to solve everything. We’re quickly losing the conceptual and synergistic way to approach and solve things…all pushed along by digital data and the computer age. It’s hardly surprising that we haven’t been successful with artificial intelligence yet, either, because we’ve taken a computerized, linear approach rather than a synthesized, holistic one. Some expert commented, when you look inside our brains, they’re a mess. No logic boxes.

When it comes to organizations, we need to put the right, commonsense ingredients into them, based upon the “purpose-driven” vision and culture we desire. We then have to blend those ingredients over a reasonable period of time – likely to be at least nine months, rather than an overnight silver bullet. We then provide “heat” in the form of leadership and management – hopefully more of the former, if we want the best results – until the right outcome emerges. This can be described as “natural flow.”

Take the example of an enterprise that wishes to be a premier software house. It’s “purpose-driven” vision is to produce on-time, error free and reliable software for clients needing complex programs. It intends to give all its stakeholders an extraordinary experience because it knows, if it can accomplish that, it will earn all the money that the market-place will allow.

Its project pairings meet with their customers every week to ensure they are satisfied with progress and have the opportunity to make adjustments. Its programmers work in “pairs” so as to stimulate their inner quality bug as well as learn from each other. This more than compensates for the extra investment, especially as they are always on time and hardly any projects are shelved…almost unheard of in the software business.

All staff have a daily huddle every weekday to share progress, connect with each other, and hear about company developments. Because of their effectiveness, their people don’t have to work any more than a 40 hour week – to the relief of friends and family – and their vacations are totally uninterrupted and made possible in conjunction with others. Other than owner-partners, project leaders, and “natural flow,” little day-to-day supervision is required.

Put all the above powerful organizational ingredients into a blender consisting of three portals – ‘purpose-driven” vision, people power and enlightened leadership – and then give it a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly spin. At the same time, you apply heat in the form of leadership and management, again with the emphasis on leadership. Now you end up with a
rather profitable business that never needs outside financing. People also clamor, by word-of-mouth, to join it. This company is known as Menlo Innovations.

Across town is another successful, “purpose-driven” company that has developed into a cluster of interrelated businesses all in the same community. One of its enterprises actually trains outsiders on its “purpose-driven” approach. Its people feel highly connected to its current 2020 vision and discuss it on a regular basis. No blaring banners around.

Staff meet on a weekly basis with their individual business leaders to talk about successes and adjustments. They regularly attend training sessions with its training venture, which often includes exposure to the founders. This ensures its people are regularly refreshed and updated. Such training includes healthy financial disciplines, so that everyone ensures the company continues to remain profitable. But not that profitable, where “making money” is the only reason for being in business.

Again, all these positive ingredients are put into the group’s blender, with the same three portals described earlier, where enlightened leadership and cultural “heat” is then applied for brewing a profitable business with superior levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty. So successful has this “purpose-driven” company been that it received nearly two pages of editorial coverage in the prestigious New York Times, Sunday Business section – front page news, too – in July 2014. That article shows how it puts the right recipe together and then lets “natural flow” do the rest. It’s known as Zingerman’s…see the opening quote.

As organizations, we’re challenged to learn more from nature and natural flow in building our businesses, as opposed to let them become “command and control,” “linear flow” entities as they grow. Command and control units become somewhat stultified, much in the same way our jaws become numb when dentists apply cocaine to an infected tooth. This numbness, brought about by a fixation on unnatural, linear thinking and numbers; interferes with the entity’s spirit and natural flow, and so the enterprise doesn’t work at its best.

In the same New York Business section, there was a non-profit article entitled, “Giving Donors a Sense of Belonging.” Not only was it advocating ways to give donors a stronger sense of purpose, but the author (well known economist Robert Shiller) went on to write: “I work at Yale University and the higher purpose of education is a major reward for me. Many teachers…have chosen to make less money than they could in the private sector, because they feel they are contributing to the greater good.”

Such an attitude is becoming increasingly prevalent among the Gen Yers, Millennials and Gen Cs: the increasing backbone of today’s workforce. In other words, these people increasingly crave a more compelling purpose, and not just becoming slaves to “making money.”

Once today’s organizations understand this, they will build recipes for taking advantage of “natural flow.” They will move beyond the strain and drive of “making money” within the confines of stultified, command and control cultures, which are so often counterproductive.

Automation: How it Dummies Us Down!
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
Human intelligence is withering as we rely more on the artificial variety. We need a new approach to technology – one tailored to the needs of people, not robots,” by Nicholas Carr, author of article ‘Automation Makes Us Dumb,’ Wall Street Journal Review, November 2014.

Carr’s article went on to declare, ‘Computers are taking over the kinds of knowledge work long considered the preserve of well-educated, well-trained professionals: Pilots rely on computers to fly planes; doctors consult them in diagnosing ailments; architects use them to design buildings.’

Against that are Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) worries that pilots are not developing the skills to handle a plane in an emergency. Pilots have become ‘accustomed to watching things happen and reacting, instead of being proactive’ a FAA panel warned; otherwise known as ‘skill fade.”

Architects are relying upon computer aided design (CAD) for building structures, even though there are increasing numbers of design flaws. Architectural schools are now encouraged to move students back to the initial pencil and paper sketches once more to overcome the troubling CAD trend. Doctors who are all too often accused of not having the personal touch, are now being enticed to use impersonal computer protocols.

To what degree are people in your organization depend-ing on computerized protocols rather than being stimulated to think?

Stack all this against Sir Joshua Reynolds’ view – 18th century philosopher- that: “There’s no expedient that man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking,” and we have the perfect storm. Software applications that offer many prompts and tips are often to blame for errors, as opposed to less accommodating programs that push people harder to think, act and learn.

An upstate New York professor apparently interviewed a significant number of primary physicians who were using computerized systems. These same doctors felt their computers were undermining their ability to make informed decisions around diagnosis and treatment.

In the recent death of a West African man, who died of Ebola in Dallas, digital templates were used and probably aided “tunnel vision” by their users. Such highly constrained tools – without an adaptive brain – caused medical staff to “miss the forest for the trees,” rather like architects with their CAD systems.

Carr’s article reported on a Miami based architectural professor, who praised CAD for producing 3-D renderings with incredible speed,…”but also bred more banal, lazy, and uneventful designs that are void of intellect, imagination and emotion.”

Apparently, we have followed the path of technology-centered-automation, where as much capability as possible is delegated to the software. Human operators then take what is left – entering data, following templates and monitoring displays: otherwise known as “de-skilling.”

An alternative is recommended – human-centered-automation – where preserving and enhancing people’s talents take precedence. In such cases recipes/systems are designed to keep humans in “the decision loop, where they bring action, feedback and judgment-making to the situation.” Such an approach encourages involvement and challenges people in ways that will strengthen rather than diminish skills and therefore software plays an essential but secondary role.

In other words, computers take over the mundane work and become the user’s partner rather than the person’s replacement. Computer designers-initiators need to change their focus from idolizing their machines and defaming their human users. Those designers need to take a more balanced view.

This writer has seen skilled milling-machine operators turned into bystanders, rather than retain a status of master machinists. How does that impact the human ego, as opposed to challenge minds to contribute higher order input? No wonder there are greater societal ills as talented people become marginalized by the latest technology gizmos.

What to do?
» Human-Centered-Automation – Get your IT teams to investigate an adaptive-automation approach, which employs cutting-edge sensors to monitor workplace people’s current states and then shifts the mental load back-and-forth between users and their computers.. When they sense users are struggling with an activity, they shift more tasks to their computers to free-up their operators. When they sense an operator’s interest is waning, they ratchet-up the users workload to increase attention and enhance skills. (NOTE: You may get the reaction from your IT team when they hear about “human-centered or adaptive-automation” to query: “What’s that all about?”…deflecting the scenario rather than embracing it. Sounds like Sir Joshua Reynolds, again, and avoiding the thinking part.. Besides, this will disturb your team’s lofty technology-centered-automation status in some way?)
»Further Reading- Challenge your IT team to read Mr. Carr’s other books: “The Shallows: What the Internet Is doing to our Brains,” or “The Glass Cage: Automation and Us.” From these your IT team should get the message and then make recommendations on approaches that will avoid converting your work teams into “dummies.”.
» Wrong Direction – In essence, our technology professionals have unwittingly led us in the wrong direction. They’ve sold their skills on making our lives simpler and easier. Those same milling-machinists who stood-by and pressed buttons all day gradually became the most troublesome teams in their company…they had to utilize their imaginations in some way! Others probably switched-off, coasted through their days, drew a pay-check, and then scurried home to use their real talents on their hobbies.

Who said leading people was a slam-dunk? However, it can be considerably more rewarding when you have them
fully engaged and utilizing their diverse talents in adding value to your organization. That’s where leaders thrive.

All too often, managers give their people the easy way out to buy their loyalty and keep the peace. But then invariably they are corralling a mind-numbed workforce – all in the name of automation and dummying down their people over the longer term. Ultimately it kills meaning to their people’s work.
What is Motivation: Do we really need Incentives?
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“…instrumental (externalized) motives are not always an asset and can actually be counterproductive to success.” Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz, NY Times article (July 2014) entitled ‘The Secret of Effective Motivation.’

This writer hung onto the above article because its insights would be startling to clients, although were unsurprising to him. It posed research into 11,320 West Point cadets and compared performance levels between those who were internally motivated and those instrumentally (externally) motivated. For cadets: internally – desire to become a competent leader; instrumentally – to get a good job later in life.

What they discovered – to a really significant degree – was that those who were internally motivated did a whole lot better, both at West Point and in their army career, than the instrumentally motivated ones. They also studied those cadets who were clearly strong in both. Even more surprising, they discovered that this group performed worse
than all others by every measure – even more than those who had strong internal motives, but had weak instrumental ones.

Based upon their studies, these researchers went on to find that every effort should be made to “structure activities so that instrumental (externalized) consequences do not become motives.” In other words, enabling your people to concentrate on the purpose and impact-outcome of their work, rather than financial incentives, will likely enhance the quality of their work AND their financial success – even though that sounds counterintuitive. Dan Pink, in his book “Drive,” drew similar overwhelming conclusions.

Such findings would be music to the ears of the late Fred Herzberg, as the founding father of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. He called extrinsic motivators “hygiene factors” because they would require attention on a regular basis…just as his mother had to re-dust their house every day. Such motivators include: incentives, goals, structure, measurement, “driving” people, and so forth. Whereas, he termed intrinsic motivators, like personal challenge, learning, helping society, involvement, relationships and empowerment, the real motivators.

Equally, this writer has found that PEACAM factors: where P= compelling purpose; E= equality, fairness and decision involvement; A= sense of achievement; C= camaraderie with workplace colleagues; A= degree of autonomy and empowerment; and M= mastery in one’s domain. All are significant internal motivators because they “light fires within people.” In addition to this writers extensive observation, the strength of internal motivators are confirmed in research by Dan Pink (mentioned earlier) and David Sirota in his book, ‘The Enthusiastic Employee.’

Motivators like these run counter to our traditional CIGFAM approach: where C= competition, I= incentives, G= goals, F= fear, A= accountability, and M= measurement. All of these are instrumental or consequential motivators and therefore are more likely to undermine performance over time, since they are designed to “light fires under people.” The heat placed under people has to be regularly ratcheted up over time, to the point where it becomes counterproductive. CIGFAM, unless used wisely, can destroy the spirit within any organization, since it makes people more mercenary.

In their article, the researchers also made the point that, where “the desire for military excellence and service to country fails to attract all the desired recruits;” – that is, using internal motivators – recruiters typically resort to offering money for college, career training, or opportunity to see the world…which are instrumental motivators. Apparently, while the new inducements might increase recruitment, they may well draw less capable soldiers. Similarly, they contend that while offering pizza parties or financial incentives may increase student class attendance, it may also result in less well educated students.

Points like these raise another important issue in the researchers’ article, namely the use of “accountability.” It is a heavily used term when CIGFAM begins to wear thin. If not handled with finesse, accountability becomes more of a threat than a motivator.

Consider holding office staff accountable for customer service, invoicing and staff support. If this isn’t going well, you can hold them accountable by giving them specific measureable goals, policies and procedures. You can also put teeth into the accountability by sharing that they will be censured, demoted, get poor performance appraisals, have their salary or benefits downgraded, or be fired if they fail to meet accountability requirements. How long do you think such a regime will last before people in the office team either quit or look for a position in another department?

Far better would be to have an adult conversation with the office team. Encourage them to review the various stakeholders they serve – customers, alliances, suppliers, staff, their leaders, regulatory agencies, and owners-shareholders – and get them to imagine each stakeholder-group’s expectations. Then they can figure out what impact-outcomes would make their stakeholders smile. What extraordinary performance would be required to encourage their stakeholders to show their appreciation?

For the most part, that office team would now give it their best shot to get the smiles. And, subject to receiving some positive feedback during the near-term, the course would now be set for producing impact-outcomes better than their stakeholders’ expectations. They would hold themselves accountable, rather than someone else doing it for them.

So, coming full-circle to the question: “What is motivation?” – it becomes clear that we have to refresh our approach toward this topic. Senior executives constantly vex over the issue of motivating younger generation workers. Executives are concerned that younger folks are not motivated to the same degree as their forebears.

Is it likely that the Gen Xs and Millennials are motivated differently in a way that the older folks don’t understand? Are they looking for meaning and impact in their work rather than financial returns? Maybe they don’t feel as empty handed as their forebears? Do they feel more connected with greater access to information and resources, therefore can work smarter rather than harder?

According to a very recent New York Times article (Sunday Styles section) entitled “The Millennials Are Generation Nice:” ‘Almost two-thirds (64%) of Millennials said they would rather make $40,000 a year at a job they love than $100,000 a year at a job they think is boring.’

In the final analysis, the quoted researchers want us to conclude that, making “an activity more attractive by emphasizing both internal and instrumental (externalized) motives is understandable;” but it may well unwittingly produce a reduction in your people’s all important internal motivation. Consequently, if the right internal motivators exist, do we really need individual incentives, too?

Overcoming E-Mail Madness!
by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“I fear the day when technology surpasses human interaction; then the world will have a generation of idiots.” Albert Einstein
” One morning last week, I sat at my desk and stared at my Gmail in-box; 40,000 unread emails stared back.” Jenna Wortham, NY Times article: ‘When E-Mail Turns From Delight to Deluge’ – February, 2013
I’m the last one to be extolling the virtues of e-mails, since I believe, like Einstein, the virtuality of e-mails is killing our ability to properly interact with each other. So many channels of virtual media will deny younger gener-ations of the huge benefits of in-person relations: such as, sensing a person’s true thoughts, enjoying someone’s comp-any as well as their babble, seeing the grey in someone’s behavior versus just black or white, and so on.
However, faced with the e-mail phenomena and people’s stories about their inability to cope with its torrents, as per the above author, I can only draw one conclusion: Those who struggle with a loaded e-mail in-box are poor prioritizers in the first place. Lured by e-mail and other social channels, users thought they would be able to “control” their communications with the outside world: to find they’ve solved nothing because they didn’t have a good handle on their priorities in the first place.
Any good project leaders worth their salt, will advise you that, to benefit from a system enhancement, you will only get your bang for your buck if your current system is in fairly good shape.
And so, for those crazed e-mailers, they need to get their prioritization act together. For me, there’s a selfish motive with this advice, as well as an intellectual one. By resolving their priorities issue, I will actually receive timely responses to my e-mails. Yes, I do send e-mails, begrudgingly, because in many cases I have no other option. I can also spot those who have priority issues by the time it takes them to respond.
With their personal challenge in mind, I would recom-mend the following – as someone said in the NY Times art-icle above, “Checking e-mail is like performing a triage”:
• Copy E-Mails – Get your IT team to provide you with a COPY filter in exactly the same way they provide a Spam filter. You can then skim your Copy folder daily and either delete or archive the less important or relevant “copy” items…rely on your intuition for doing this and you will be at least 80% right in your selections. You can then read those that are still relevant and act upon them “then and there.” Good prioritizers deal with most things only once. They try to not go back twice.
• Direct E-Mails – Reserve one or two times a day to deal with those emails addressed to you directly. Your first move is to eliminate any remaining SPAM or alien/unknown addressees. With what’s left, first read the ones which are obviously essential and relevant. As much as is possible, answer them “then and there.”
Where an e-mail requires a more comprehensive and thoughtful reply; unless it is absolutely time-sensitive, leave it and return to it later. Your mind will work on it sub-consciously during the meantime and provide you with a ready, sensible answer when the time comes.
Time permitting at the end of your day; return to your less essential e-mails and either answer them “then and there” or leave them to be dealt with another time within your week. Where you decide on the latter, just send a note to say you’ll catch up with the mailer later. Again, your intuitive mind will have ready replies by the time you return to these on another day.
• E-Mail Etiquette- Every organization should establish a code of e-mail etiquette to burnish its communication image. This could include:
– Don’t send emails of substance to colleagues who are within reasonable walking distance.
– Don’t deal with personally sensitive issues by e-mail, such as firing people, admonishing someone, personal critiques, second-guessing, and so forth.
– Don’t try to sell something to someone via e-mail, when you have neither met nor spoken to them by phone beforehand.
– Don’t express opinions about colleagues by email unless they are positive.
– Don’t waste time with ten back and forth e-mails to arrange something, when one phone call will do.
– If you cannot respond to an important associate within 24 hours, send them an acknowledgement.
Ultimately, to deal with e-mail madness, we have to learn better ways to handle it until a more common under-standing evolves for making it a better tool. For the addicts, they may need some special schooling, too.

To build a better e-mail framework, please contact:
Andreas Verykios –Europe – (+352)621 37 25 06 or
Chris Garratt –Europe- (+352) 2631 3384 or
Denise Lalonde – New York- (212) 974 1438 or
Ed Frontera – Florida – (561) 715 0447 or
Jim Leonhard –California – (916) 550 7075 or
Olger Draijer –Europe-(+352) 45 88 35 or
Paul Schonenberg – Europe – (+352) 621 23 3131 or
Peter A. Arthur-Smith – New York- (212) 332-8907 or © 1994-2013 Leadership Solutions, Inc (MALRC) All rights reserved“The Virtues of Face-to-Face, Voice-to-Voice and Word-to-Word: Which has the greatest impact on Innovation?” by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®
“(Mervin Kelly’s) fundamental belief at Bell Labs was that an institute of creative technology like his own needed a critical mass of talented people to foster an exchange of ideas. But innovation required much more than that. Mr. Kelly was convinced that physical proximity was every-thing: phone calls alone wouldn’t do.” NY Times Review article, February 2012, “True Innovation” by Jon Gertner.

Mervin Kelly ended up as Chairman of the Board at Bell Labs having started at the bottom in 1925. He retired in 1959. Bell Labs was pretty much the premier innovation center on the planet before its demise in 1988. It invented the transistor (forerunner to the chip), the cell phone and the solar cell: all societal breakthroughs.
The question is: Will our increasing reliance on word-to-word, virtual communication substantially kill innovate-ion because we increasingly want to deal with each other from a distance? This writer craves to talk with his daughters in person, while they crave to use texting because it’s the hip thing to do. The stand-off continues.
Innovation is of prime importance right now, since so many sectors of industry and society have to be reinvented to recover stellar growth after the Great Recession. Similar fundamental changes occurred as a result of the Great Depression… banking, new products/services, organization methods and communication to name but four.
Clear advantages exist for all three modes of commun-ication, face, voice and word, although it would be interesting to know how many of the pros and cons are understood by the different generations across the comm-unication spectrum.
Face-to face meetings are still preferred by many in older generations because of the richness they derive from such interaction. Alas, younger generations seem to avoid it like the plague with anyone outside their own immediate circle. They prefer to do everything remotely. Anything to avoid travel or any meaningful in-person discussion, where it is likely they will discover so much more: “Just email it to me or set up a Webinar, so I can keep the relationship simple and distant,” is their refrain.
In-person sessions allow for utilization of all our senses: senses that can detect signals for developing relations, trust and innovating something worthwhile.
When Mervin Kelly talked about innovation, his view was: ‘Innovation is an important new product or process, deployed on a large scale and having significant impact on society and the economy that can do a job “better or cheaper, or both.”’ Many times we think about innovation as those small incremental steps that enhance products or services over time. Maybe texting can manage that part, but not the fundamental changes that society and our economy require to take us beyond our current difficulties.
Phone conversations are the half-way house that helps pick up on many nuances needed to inspire breakthrough questions essential to innovation. They are so much more time efficient than texting due to simultaneous dialog. To beat this enormous advantage, communication companies dramatically reduced the cost enticement for emails or texting to tip the balance in their favor. When you add it all up, texting and email can absorb untold amounts of time, owing to their simplex, one-way nature.
Indeed, apart from the opportunity to hide behind our computer, cell-phone or iPad, a perceived advantage of using email or text is that we can pick and choose what interests us. This writer is as guilty as anyone else. But have we thought about how many opportunities we allow slip away each day because we cannot assess the true value behind that written word. It’s about as successful as picking the right candidate from a bunch of resumes: which is impossible, despite many pundits to the contrary.
Perhaps word-to-word, rather than face-to-face, enables us to live up to a quote by Sir Joshua Reynolds, famous 18th century philosopher and painter, that Thomas Edison prized above a doorway in his laboratory: “There’s no expedient that man will not go to avoid the labor of thinking.” Mervin Kelly would no doubt buy that one.
We need to find ways to re-engage the word-to-word generation before it’s too late. Without that, it may take several generations of economic decline for someone to wake-up and announce, “We need to be involved in face-to-face dialog to find the best solutions and see our way forward.”
If you wish to beef-up the advantages of face-to-face dialog within your organization, please contact:
Andreas Verykios –Europe – (+352)621 37 25 06 or
Chris Garratt –Europe- (+352) 2631 3384 or
Denise Lalonde – New York- (212) 974 1438 or
Ed Frontera – Florida – (561) 715 0447 or
Jim Leonhard –California – (415) 482 7766 or
Olger Draijer –Europe-(+352) 45 88 35 or
Paul Schonenberg – Europe – (+352) 621 23 3131 or
Peter A. Arthur-Smith – New York- (212) 332-8907 or

©1994-2012 Leadership Solutions Inc.® (MALRC). All rights reserved

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