Rand Golletz Performance Systems
Executive Coaching and Personal Consulting for Tough-Minded Leaders.

Articles for Leadership

Leadership Attributes: How Do You Stack Up?

Note From Rand

By the time you read this, the regular season in baseball is over, and we’re into the playoffs. As I write this, however, there are still two games left in the regular season. My beloved Baltimore Orioles are likely going to get a wild-card slot. A month ago, I was convinced they were dead … oh me of little faith. A couple of years ago, I wrote about their manager, Buck Showalter. He gets more from a team than almost any manager I’ve ever seen.

Two sports legends made the headlines at the end of September. Arnold Palmer died. I didn’t know him, but a couple of my friends did. I’ve heard many stories about how this man – the man who made golf a sport followed by the masses – treated everyone, no matter their place in society, with more than dignity and respect. He treated everyone as a friend and was a great example. I know many executives who, for whatever reason, deal with people solely based on what those people can DO for them.

The other was Vin Scully. Vin was the voice of the Dodgers for 67 YEARS. He is a testament to the importance of loving one’s job. His broadcasts were uniformly brilliant, and for that he has been cited as the most important broadcaster in the history of baseball. In Vin’s first year of broadcasting Dodger games (when they were the Brooklyn Dodgers), Jackie Robinson was in his fourth year with the team and across town in the Bronx, Joe DiMaggio roamed center field for the Yankees.

This month’s column discusses the attributes of effective managerial leaders. Several years ago, I crafted this framework for a Fortune 500 CEO. While in total it documents the “perfect” leader, the attributes are all those worthy of your aspiration. I welcome your comments about their importance, or as to whether you agree with their inclusion.

I’ll see you in November. As always: Get real, get tough, and get going! Go Os!

Leadership Attributes: How Do You Stack Up?

One of the most popular ongoing debates of the last twenty years concerns the distinctions between management and leadership, and the relative importance of each to organizational success. John Kotter of the Harvard Business School once cited “alignment” as the most critical difference. Effective leaders, he said, engage the hearts as well as the minds of followers to produce productive organizational change. Warren Bennis, perhaps the most quoted and revered expert on the subject, promoted a similar notion. Jim Kouzas and Barry Posner, whose book The Leadership Challenge remains the most frequently referenced work on the subject, outlined the five best practices and ten commitments of effective leaders. In Marcus Buckingham’s book, The One Thing You Need to Know, he says that the one thing great managers know about managing is this: “Discover what is unique about each person and capitalize on it.”

As the promotion of leadership became more pervasive, the importance of management (planning, organizing, staffing and controlling) took a back seat, and its sex appeal diminished. Little wonder, considering that grand visions and emotional engagement are much more stimulating than planning, organizing, staffing and controlling.

Here’s what I know for certain: Effective leadership and management are both required to set appropriate direction and achieve planned results. One is expansive; one is reductive. One is about doing the right things; one is about doing things right. One sets the course; the other steers the ship. Some people are more effective leaders; others are more effective managers. Take either away, and any organization is doomed.

I believe that managerial and leadership success requires seven key attributes. While no one achieves perfection in all of these areas, most effective managerial leaders understand their own strengths and limitations explicitly and make sure that the latter do not accrue to their own or their organization’s detriment. I crafted the following framework for a Fortune 500 CEO. I believe that it captures the critical elements of managerial leadership. See if you agree.

Strong Business Orientation and Understanding

Exhibits outstanding acumen and judgment. Thinking of the needs of stakeholders comes as second nature. Achieves results. Never uses excuses. Has a clear understanding of the anatomy and competitive dynamics of the business. Focuses on most critical areas. Balances short and long-term priorities across constituencies. Understands the principles of value creation.

Assumes Accountability, Initiative and Leadership

Has a strong desire to lead. Assumes initiative, even in the absence of formal authority. Keeps apprised of the important operating level details of the organization without impairing empowerment. Is assertive without being overwhelming. Builds a competitive team focused on creating value, not on creating bureaucracy. Merit rather than politically driven. Raises expectations of performance continuously. Delivers on commitments. Objective. Identifies and prevents potential problems. Can accept and learn from personal defeats. Cuts losses.

Energizes Teams

Aligns teams to achieve organizational and team goals, not protect personal interests and/or prerogatives. Facilitates conflict resolution and genuine communication. Cultivates commitment, loyalty and trust; doesn’t expect fealty; understands the difference. Really listens. Provides feedback that is constructive and in real time. Coaches and counsels in a productive manner. Helps people discover and achieve their potential.

Transforms Organization

Has a clear vision and the courage to change, not only run the organization. Has a raging impatience with the status quo. Creates urgency and consensus around change initiatives while recognizing that giving people a say doesn’t necessarily mean giving them a vote. Willing to experiment and challenge her/his own thinking. Asks penetrating questions that reframe perspectives and undermine preconceptions. Is flexible and yet riveted on mission and goals.

Employs Sound Judgment and Action Regarding People

Selects and profiles people objectively. Very adept at recruiting and developing. Personally secure; relishes hiring and promoting high achievers. Promotes based upon merit; “leapfrogs” people where appropriate. Is a tough minded (but not hard-headed) performance evaluator.

Has Superior Curiosity and Thinking Capacity

Thinks multi-dimensionally. Learns about global issues related to own industry/organization as well as the world overall. Perceives the patterns of external change and integrates them into her/his own thinking. Is intellectually curious and open-minded.

Employs Emotional Intelligence

Self-confident but self-deprecating. Has a realistic assessment of her/himself. Controls or redirects disruptive/destructive impulses. Has the capacity to suspend judgment, to think before acting. Understands the impact that her/his moods, emotions and actions have on others. Understands the distinctive emotional make-up of others and is skilled in treating people considering their reactions. Builds rapport.

Align Your Beliefs and Behavior

Note From Rand

The NFL season starts next week. In the past, I’ve picked the MVP, Division winners and Super Bowl teams and winner. In 2013, I picked the Seahawks to win the Super Bowl. The year that Aaron Rodgers was selected as the MVP, I had picked him as the winner. I picked the Seahawks to repeat the year after they won the Super Bowl. They played in the game but lost to the Patriots on a last minute interception. My picks for this season:

MVP: Russell Wilson
NFC East: Washington Redskins
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks
NFC North: Green Bay Packers
NFC South: New Orleans Saints
NFC winner: Seattle Seahawks

AFC East: New England Patriots
AFC West: Oakland Raiders
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts
AFC North: Pittsburgh Steelers
AFC winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

Super Bowl Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers

This month’s column is philosophical in nature. It promotes the value of making decisions and taking action based upon a well thought out belief system. I apply it to my political philosophy, but that’s not the point. The REAL point is that every person ought to be guided by an inner voice that consistently reflects his beliefs and informs his actions and decisions. I hope you enjoy it and find it challenging.

Align Your Beliefs and Behavior

Most people assume I’m a Republican. I’m a former CEO, former CMO, and now a business coach and consultant – you get the idea! The fact is, I have NEVER been a Republican. I was once a Democrat. Then I became an Independent, and for the last several years, I’ve been a registered Libertarian. When I tell my friends that, especially those who I haven’t seen in several years, their eyes roll back. The assumptions that they and many people have about Libertarians is that we’re either selfish “me first” people, right-wing reactionaries, or stay-at-home vegetative types who just want to be left alone! I’m actually none of those things, but I do contain small pieces of EACH of those things.

The diversity of our ranks and beliefs, however, speaks volumes about us. We agree on a few key things and disagree about plenty. Most of us believe strongly in individual freedom, a small, Constitutionally-based Federal Government, individual responsibility and accountability, and low taxes. Most of us also migrated to libertarianism after some reflection and self-examination. That’s what incited and then propelled my journey. When I began comparing my personal beliefs and philosophies with my voting history, it created dissonance.

Here’s my story:

When I began voting in the 1970s, I was a staunch Democrat. My view of life was idealistic rather than tragic (“tragic” as in the context of Greek tragedies), and my belief was that government could be a force for good. Over time, as I assessed the results of government actions, such as various permutations of “wars on drugs,” interference in the operation of the free marketplace, ineffective efforts to mitigate poverty, etc., I became convinced that legislative solutions, more often than not, were “throw money at it and hope for the best,” and that the follow-through by agencies charged with execution was generally ineffective. (It’s important to remember here that I speak MY truth, not THE truth. I’m not writing to challenge your perspective – only to challenge you to HAVE one!)

In 1980, after what I considered to be the disastrous Presidency of Jimmy Carter, I took my first leap into non-traditional voting waters by casting my ballot for John Anderson, the Independent candidate for President. His views seemed less governed by any party dogma than by his own conscience, and I liked that. From 1984 through 2008, my Presidential voting record would have given a few clues as to my overall philosophy, which was beginning to congeal (more about that later): Reagan, Bush, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Bush, nobody.

About 15 years ago, I began to develop my own philosophy; not a political philosophy, but rather how I aspired to live my life, and what I believed ABOUT life. Some of its current elements follow:

• I own my life. I am responsible for my actions and accountable for my results. PERIOD!

• I believe in “acceptance” (giving in to reality). I DO NOT believe in “resignation” (giving up on possibility).

• I believe that personal growth is our primary, life-long mission.

• I believe in self-management and course correction. Wisdom is not an automatic by-product of experience. Here’s the formula: Wisdom = experience x reflection x relentless honesty x accountability (accepting consequences with no blame, no finger-pointing, no excuses, no whining, no justifications or rationalizations) x behavioral change.

• Our natural tendency – one that we must reject – is to surround ourselves with people who affirm who we already are, rather than those who inspire us to reach higher and do better. In order to grow, we must surround ourselves with the kind of people that we want to be, not those who mirror our own character defects.

• Real friends put truth telling above peacekeeping. They place the welfare of their friends above the survival of comfortable friendships.

• I believe that without discipline, aspiration is hallucination.

Here is the formula that most people employ to rationalize (to themselves) their own dysfunctional behavior: Doing the wrong thing and a good excuse = doing the right thing. I believe that when we suffer discomfort from dissonance, we must use it to instigate action and growth rather than inertia or excuses. Personal responsibility must always trump convenience.

I have more elements, but you get the idea. My objective is to have a belief system and then to conduct regular “self-audits” to ask myself, “How am I doing?”

I have failed that test many times. Instead of making excuses, I ask, “What have I learned?” and “Can I commit do DOING better and to BEING better?” I’ve also learned, from the teachings and examples of others, that I can still be kind to myself and accept my flaws without letting myself “off the hook” and being resigned to their permanence.

Concurrent with this journey, I refined my view of the role I believed government should play in my life. That view was based on my assumptions about our government.

• Unconstrained government will naturally grow in a metastatic way.

• Federal, state and local legislatures and government agencies often address the same issues in an overlapping, expensive and bureaucratic way (Somebody explain to me why we need departments of education at every level!!).

• Local answers to issues and problems are almost always more effective than nation-wide answers. (I feel the same way about the solutions to issues and problems in corporations).

• Competition among states is a good thing. The only thing better than competition is MORE competition. Remote, federal solutions to most local problems are misguided.

• In order to accomplish SOMETHING when they cannot accomplish RELEVANT things, legislatures (at every level) will often pass legislation whose costs far outweigh their benefits.

• Cause and effect are never linear, time-bound, and absolute. As a result, solutions to problems often create other problems. Even when solutions are effective, they rarely comport with election cycles. So the election (and more importantly, re-election) of government officials can almost never be tied to their results, except over a very long period of time.

Most government agencies reward their employees for “inputs” (“tenure” being a notable example) rather than “outputs” (results). The natural consequence of that is an inward focus. That is not a good thing.

There’s a lot more, but you get the idea.

When I lined up my personal beliefs, how I want to live, and my views about government against my views and voting record more than a decade ago, I decided that I was a hypocrite. I always voted for one of the two political party candidates and almost always opted for the person who I felt would do the least harm. No more!

My admonition to you: Develop your own philosophy. Live your life, to the degree possible, consistent with that philosophy. When you feel dissonance, undertake self-examination and make changes to your actions rather than invoking excuses, rationalizations or justifications. Own your life.

When it comes to your political persuasion, don’t react to what’s out there and available. Be true to yourself, your beliefs and your values. Assess your affiliations and candidates based on their actions, not on their speeches. Talk is cheap.

Joe Maddon’s Lessons In Authentic Leadership

Note From Rand

A month left before Labor Day. I’m at a point in my life at which it feels like I have breakfast every fifteen minutes. I look in the mirror, and I still feel like I look as I did when I was thirty … until I look at a photo of myself at that age. My birthday is in four weeks. Someone PLEASE send me some spackle for my face. But I digress …

This month’s column is about Joe Maddon. Joe is the low-key and cerebral manager of MLB’s Chicago Cubs. Among baseball people, he is known to march to his own drummer. When I was a corporate executive, people said that about me. I like quirky rule-breakers. Joe certainly is one. You’ll enjoy learning how his approach to his job and his life can be instructive for you.

Until next month and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going!

Joe Maddon’s Lessons In Authentic Leadership

Joe Maddon looks like Clark Kent with white hair. He’s played tambourine and sung backup with Jimmy Buffet. Joe didn’t become a major league manager until he had been a minor league manager and major league position and bench coach for decades. When he interviewed for the Boston Red Sox job over a decade ago, he was passed over by Sox GM Theo Epstein, who selected Terry Francona. It proved to be a wise decision by Epstein. Francona led the Red Sox to two World Series championships in 2004 and 2007. They hadn’t previously won one since 1918

Maddon went on to become the Manager of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006. During the next eight years, the Rays became and remained a serious contender, despite having a payroll that was among the lowest in baseball and fan support in the Tampa/St. Petersburg region that was tepid, at best.

Fast forward to 2014. Theo Epstein had gone on to become the General Manager of the Chicago Cubs. They hadn’t gone to the World Series since 1945 and hadn’t won one since 1908. He vividly remembered his discussion with Maddon over a decade earlier: his self-confidence, his humility, his belief that players win ball games, not managers, and his quirky sense of humor. Per Epstein: “Comparing Joe now (2014) to when I interviewed him a decade ago, his confidence has reached a new level because he has done it, and it has worked.” Epstein continued: “He knows he can connect. He knows that all he has to do is be himself and he can lead and he can win. That’s why we feel he’s our long-term fit as a leader.”

The prior three paragraphs are the “what.” Here’s the “so what:”

• The Cubs are in a position to win their Division and are recognized as one of the best-led teams in baseball.

• When he took over Tampa Bay, Joe had to have a lot of tough conversations with players who were not as good as they thought they were. He delivered those messages in a very direct but modulated way. His tone never overwhelmed his message. He demonstrated that you can be tough-minded without being a jerk. Many leaders only deliver difficult messages with an accompaniment of yelling, threatening, and fist-pounding. Those leaders are either unaware that their message gets lost, or they are less concerned with effective impact than they are about being perceived as “the man.”

• Continuing with the last point, when Joe delivered those messages, the receiver would often whine to teammates. Virtually always, those teammates turned a deaf ear, instead supporting their manager. Joe had built credibility that enabled his PERFORMERS to manage the locker room. His words: ” … when the fans are looking for a definition as to why I let the players handle it, why the clubhouse is so important, why you have to have leadership within the clubhouse (among the players), it’s because when you do, these little pockets looking for allies in a negative sense, they get blown up immediately by the guys. I’m pretty sure that we have that now where the negative component cannot prosper because the guys in the clubhouse get it.”

• One of Maddon’s mantras is “don’t let the pressure exceed the pleasure.” He understands that baseball is a boy’s game played by men for LOTS OF MONEY. Often times, their inclination is to forget that it should be fun. As the manager in Tampa Bay, he famously brought in dogs, penguins and snakes to lighten the clubhouse mood. As skipper of the Cubs, he had players take a night flight in their pajamas. Those stories only scratch the surface. The best business leaders know when to take their feet off of the gas. They frequently lighten things up during tough times and put the pedal to the metal harder when things are going well.

• This point is more easily understood if you saw the movie “Moneyball,” or read the book. We’re now in an era when teams often either slavishly embrace “Moneyball” type statistical analysis or completely repudiate it – favoring an old-school, more instinctive approach to managing. Maddon embraces detailed statistical analysis combined with his intuition and instincts. Effective leaders never blindly embrace new approaches, nor do they desperately cling to tradition. They “pick the best and leave the rest.”

• Joe remains positive without being a Pollyanna. Amid a tough streak or when a young player makes an obvious bone-headed play, Maddon always remains positive and extracts life and baseball lessons that he discusses with his players later. He neither beats up (figuratively) his players in face-to-face meetings nor embarrasses them in post game press conferences. He literally views life and baseball as opportunities to learn and CHANGE. He doesn’t ignore negative lessons. Rather he uses them in a productive way. When it’s “hitting the fan” in your business, do you do likewise?

• He tries hard not to be the center of attention. He will occasionally do charity events or a TV spot, but most of the time he remains low key. During games, he stands passively in a space at the end of the dugout carefully assessing what’s going on and planning his next moves. He always has an “if this, then that” plan(s) A, B, and C. He never takes undue credit. I’ve seen corporate managers who employ a “zero sum game” perspective when it comes to getting and to giving credit. They operate as if there’s a finite amount of credit for a job well done and that if their players get credit, there’s none left for them. Just plain bulls*&t. How about you?

Even though I’m a fan, I used to roll my eyes into the back of my head when someone talked about sports as a metaphor for life. I no longer do that. Management is about getting people to DO what needs to be done. Leadership, in any arena, is about getting people to WANT TO DO what needs to be done.

You Can Change Profoundly, FOREVER!!

Note From Rand

My Baltimore Orioles are in first place. How that is possible with VERY weak starting pitching is beyond me. My admiration for manager Buck Showalter and General Manager Dan Duquette grows by the year. We lived for a decade and a half with poor performance and little hope of improvement. If you click here, you can read about some of the ways that Showalter has made a difference for the baseball team and the psyches of the people in the Baltimore area.

My column this month concerns the neurobiology of personal change. I tried to distill a complex subject into something brief and yet meaningful for you. The important point is that we now know that you are NEVER a finished product unless you choose to be. If you believe you are hard-wired, you may just be hard-headed.

Thanks for your readership. I’ll see you in August and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going!

You Can Change Profoundly, FOREVER!!

Our knowledge of brain science is rapidly evolving. Some things we now know:

Words matter. When you quit smoking, for example, did you tell people you were a non-smoker, or a smoker trying to quit? When you tried to change your leadership style, did you say things such as “I’m an autocrat trying to become more empowering,” or “I’m a leader who empowers people?” The difference in verbiage between these approaches is not hair-splitting. Your brain hears things literally. So saying “I’m a smoker trying to quit” makes change difficult because your brain identifies you as a smoker.

Science is showing us that the brain is NEVER the finished product that we once believed it was. New behaviors and actions cannot only change skill types and LEVELS throughout your entire life, they can (and do) change your perspective on what’s possible for you in compelling ways. In the not-to-distant past, science believed in the “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” theory of learning; that the brain was hard-wired by the age of ten (or even earlier), and the basics of your strengths, personality and character were likewise. Then came the discovery of neuroplasticity. Here’s the short version of what we know about that, and its impact on learning:

Neuroplastic change in the brain can occur on a smaller scale, such as physical changes to individual neurons, or whole brain scales, such as cortical remapping, due to an injury. Regarding the latter example, most improvement will only occur if the injured person is a child. The former example, however, provides real hope to those of us who are either in the business of personal change or are attempting to change ourselves. In that case, behavior, environmental stimuli, thought and emotions can cause fundamental, neuroplastic change. That’s good news regardless of your profession.

Scientists distinguish between synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes in how neurons connect to each other, and non-synaptic plasticity, which refers to changes on the neurons themselves. When you hear someone referring to the brain’s capability to create new connections and pathways, they are referring to non-synaptic plasticity. Either way, we now know that old excuses like “I’m too old to change,” or “my parents made me who I am, and I can’t change,” don’t hold water – nor did they ever.

What are the implications for you?

• You can become fundamentally different than you are, even in later years. While change is easier when you are younger (You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s tougher), you can still develop new skills and perspectives as you age. You may have been the creation of your parents, but you needn’t be a permanent victim of earlier experiences, or limited by them, for your entire life.

• Outside-in change is more effective than inside-out change. Our experiences inform our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. You needn’t have a spiritual epiphany to change.

When working with clients who are skeptical of their ability to change, I tell them not to worry about their beliefs or feelings. I encourage them to practice new actions and behaviors and to get feedback along the way. That way, they’ll become incrementally more comfortable as they see the effectiveness of new behaviors. That success will rewire their brains.

• Self-talk matters. There was a time that I doubted the importance of positive self-talk. Science has shown us, however, that the messages we consciously repeat TO ourselves, ABOUT ourselves either stymie our growth or propel it. This is a fact and no longer a matter for legitimate debate among reasonable people. A personal example: I repeat the same five affirmations EVERY morning. Doing so over a long period of time has made a huge difference in how I view myself, and what I believe about my potential.

• Understanding, in a deep and specific way, how your early life experiences directly impacted your current beliefs, feelings and actions is a REALLY important part of your change journey. This isn’t about blaming your parents for your life. It IS about understanding the REASONS that you became who you are without letting those reasons become EXCUSES. Reading material on this subject and reflecting on it is a good place to start. You may want to attend a workshop like the Landmark Forum (see landmarkworldwide.com) to develop deep understanding and craft change strategies.

• Developing the brain is like building muscle. It takes time and practice. We live in a world in which the pursuit of instant gratification coupled with short attention spans make this tough. We want answers and results quickly. Commitment, determination, focus and patience will yield positive results. Requiring results immediately will not.

• Effective techniques are available that will yield positive results. Mindfulness meditation, for example, can help you cultivate your ability to focus, to deal with pain, and to challenge preconceptions. Google Richie Davidson at the University of Wisconsin for more on this subject.

The bottom line: While a lot of people choose to be finished with their own development before they’re thirty years old, they don’t have to be. Do you want to be one of them?

To Be or Not to Be … A “Jerk” That Is

Note From Rand

As we enter June in the mid-Atlantic, I wonder what happened to spring. The answer: We didn’t HAVE one. From the last week of April through the third week of May, we had 25 days of rain in a 30 day period. The temperature during that span was 5-10 degrees below normal. As I write this, however, the temperature is 85 degrees, and it’s sunny. Thank goodness.

In greater D.C., our public transit system is called METRO. They’ve been having a lot of safety problems. Breakdowns … fire, and oh yes … there was a rape on a train that didn’t get reported until much later. I read in the Washington Post this morning that the governments of D.C. Maryland, and Virginia want to establish a “committee” to oversee safety. That is a TYPICAL government solution. Their answer to a problem is more bureaucracy, more committees, more supervisory layers. My answer is this: Establish firm accountability with A PERSON and hold that person accountable (accountability = consequences) for the performance of the system. End of story.

You’ll find my column this month thought-provoking and instructive. It addresses the challenge and difficulty of individual change. The example comes from personal experience.

I’ll see you in July and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going.

To Be or Not to Be … A “Jerk” That Is

Jerry was the CEO of a large bank headquartered in New York. As a client of mine for several years, he had grown to trust my ability to work with “difficult” executives.

One Friday evening I got a call from Jerry’s executive assistant, asking me to meet with him to discuss one of his direct reports’ performance and development; it sounded more urgent than was typical of his requests. Three days later, I went to NYC for a luncheon meeting.

Jerry explained that one of “his guys,” as he called him, comported himself in a way that was unacceptable. He regularly threatened members of his team with termination; he ignored people to “make a statement;” he demanded phone access to people 24/7/365; he required that they provide his assistant with copies of their calendars so he could see what they were doing, and he treated people like “servants.” There was more, but you get the idea. He then asked me if I could “fix” Steve (the culprit) by coaching him. I said, “no.”

Jerry tilted his head, looking perplexed, and said, “You fixed ME!” I challenged his thinking with several questions. He concluded that I did not, in fact, “fix” him. What I did was help him accept that his style (some of his substance, too) detrimentally affected corporate results. Together we then crafted and implemented a plan to improve his performance along the dimensions that we (along with feedback from others) identified.

I agreed to meet Steve to discuss the possibility of working together. A couple of weeks later, we met. He had a physically commanding presence. In a Brioni suit and Gucci loafers, Steve looked like the Wall Street guy that he was. He shook my hand firmly and gazed right into my eyes as he introduced himself. His office resembled a Ralph Lauren showroom – dark wood, antiques – very “Harvard Club” looking.

After a couple of hours with Steve, I was perplexed. He was a charming gentleman. I had a hard time imagining him getting angry. I could imagine, however, that under certain circumstances his understated tone and stare could give chills to someone on the receiving end. I also sensed that while he accepted the need to change, he didn’t understand the magnitude of his problems or the challenge that they created. We agreed to work together and signed a one-year coaching agreement.

Fast forward three months.

We had gotten feedback, developed an action plan and begun working in four categories: Delegation; Impulse Control; Communication (especially “listening to understand” rather than just “listening to respond”); Trust. A couple of these had psychotherapeutic implications, and Steve engaged a renowned therapist to partner with us. He was “all in.”

Steve had a sincere attitude and a willingness to do the work; I was encouraged and optimistic. I believed that we had begun making real progress. Then on a Sunday night, my cell phone rang; it was Steve.

“You have to come up here for a talk,” he said. I wasn’t sure if it was a request or a demand. Either way, he sounded agitated. When I arrived at his office the following day, I found him pacing. His assistant briefed me before I entered his office. Apparently, he had been asking her to evaluate his management style. He was looking for validation.

Here’s how my conversation with Steve went:

“So … how can I help you today, Steve?”

He started: “My team doesn’t appreciate me, Rand. I’ve been working my tail off to change perceptions of me by changing what I do. I really appreciate your help, but I’m not getting any love from my people!”

“Tell me more,” I said.

“My results have been substantial. I feel really good about our progress. I don’t think my team notices, however. They still seem leery of me. When I’m around, I sense that they’re overly careful. When they’re in the middle of a conversation and see me coming, I can tell that they either change the subject or end the conversation. I don’t feel as if they’re opening up to me any more than they were before.”

I laughed!

“Why are you laughing? You know I’m serious! I’m tempted to just go back to being who I was before!”

“Stop,” I said. “Please listen to what I’m about to say because this is as important as anything we’ve spoken about since we’ve been working together.”

He quieted down, and I continued by going to the white board hanging on his wall, picking up a marker and drawing a long line. At one end, I wrote “Steve, the jerk.” At the other end I wrote “new and improved Steve.” Then I asked him a couple of questions:

“How long have your direct reports worked for you, Steve?”

“Two of them for over five years; two of them for three to five years; three of them for two to three years,” he said.

I went back to the board and continued: “OK … let’s say that this line represents five years – the length of time that your two longest tenured guys have reported to you.” I then segmented the line into the chunks of time that each of his directs had worked for him.

“What’s your point?” Steve asked.

I then depicted, on the five-year timeline, the amount of time represented by our working together – three months. I looked at Steve to get a sense of whether he knew what I was going to say next. He didn’t. I went into a measured, non-judgmental semi-rant:

“So Steve … your guys have worked for you anywhere from two to five years. You and I have been working together for three months. Giving you the benefit of the doubt and for the sake of argument, you began demonstrating new behaviors six weeks ago. These guys saw the old Steve for anywhere from two to five years. They have seen the new and improved Steve for six weeks. Which Steve do you think they believe is the REAL STEVE?”

“I get it,” Steve said. “When will they come to accept that I’ve changed? Is it going to take FIVE YEARS?”

“I can’t answer that,” I said. “I do know that it’ll take a lot longer than you’ve had so far.”

“So I’m going to have to be this way for a lot longer?”

“I’m not sure how to respond to that, Steve,” I responded. “But I’ll try if you’ll indulge me for a minute. First, your guys probably view the changes you’re making as being ‘forced’ on you. They know you’re working with me. Second, your changes are uncomfortable for them. Even though they probably like ‘new Steve’ better than ‘old Steve,’ they don’t know what to make of new Steve. They don’t know if he’ll last; they don’t know how to relate to you. They don’t know how to relate to EACH OTHER. Not only will their relationship with YOU change, the entire team dynamic will change. You have to be patient with this ambiguity. It’ll work itself out. You have to persist.”

“What should I do with my discomfort?” Steve asked.

“Acknowledge it. Tell them what you told me. Ask THEM to be patient. Tell them that you’re available at any time to discuss their concerns, collectively or individually, about what they’re seeing, thinking, or feeling.”

“Why does all this ‘change stuff’ have to be so hard?” Steve asked.

“Because it just is,” I said.

Think about the implications for you. As you have embarked on either individual or team change initiatives in the past, where did your impatience or need for certainty derail either the effort or your psyche? In the future, what are the lessons for you contained in Steve’s story?

Specific Requests Require Definite Answers

Note From Rand

Here we are in May. In the mid-Atlantic, our temperatures have been hovering the 50s. If past is prologue, we’ll skate right from this to the 80s. I cannot wait! I’m a big baseball fan; it’s hard for me to get excited about that when I have to wear a couple of layers to go outdoors.

This month’s column discusses a customer experience issue that I had in a hotel. The incident and lessons, however, can be extrapolated to any type of business. When it comes to dealing with customers, I have VERY high expectations that organizational leaders should have the people and processes in place to guarantee customer delight.

I’ll see you in June. In the meantime and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going.

The Power of “No” – Specific Requests Require Definite Answers

I arrived to check in at my hotel in the middle of a long business trip. I approached the counter and was greeted by a pleasant young woman with her name emblazoned on a badge affixed to her shirt. It said “Melanie.” Underneath her name was printed one additional word – the dreaded “Trainee.”

I’m very careful to treat novices with the appropriate kid gloves. I have no expectation that a person with limited experience will have the authority or expertise to solve major problems. In this case, I didn’t expect to present any major issues to Melanie; I expected an uneventful check-in.

She greeted me cheerfully by name and took an imprint of my credit card. As she was about to reach for my key, I made the mistake of asking the following question: “Melanie, as I’m a super-duper member of your frequent guest program, do you think I could have an upgrade to the concierge level?”

She stared at me in terror. There was no one else around to ask. I expected Melanie to break out into a flop sweat like Albert Brooks in the movie Broadcast News. After about 30 very quiet seconds, she said, “Well, Mr. Golletz, I don’t know!”

I calibrated my response and tone to suit her inexperience. I didn’t want her to get turned off to a career in customer service, but I did want to teach Melanie a valuable lesson. I proceeded: “Well, who would know, and when will they know?”

I wasn’t improving Melanie’s self-confidence; she stared at me without a sound. I continued.

“Melanie, I can’t do anything with your response. Your ‘I don’t know’ assumes one of the following: that I’ll forget about it and just go to the room you had intended me to get, or that I’ll wait here for someone who can give me a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on my request.

“I could decide the latter, but I’m tired and I’m sure you’re tired of me, so I’ll go to my room. I want you to remember a couple of things, however. ‘Yes’ is a good answer. ‘No’ is also a good answer. Both allow me to do something; they’re complete. ‘Maybe’ is not a good answer because it leaves me hanging. In this case, you could have said, “Mr. Golletz, I’m a trainee, and I don’t have the authority to make that decision. I apologize.” I would’ve been OK with that too.”

I hope Melanie learned something, and that she is in a position to teach others valuable lessons about service.

When dealing with customers or clients, specific requests require definite answers.

Later, the hotel’s General Manager called me, offered an apology and asked if we could meet. An hour later, I arrived at his office, and he offered me a basket of fruit. I accepted it but assured him that I had no expectation of a gift to compensate for my experience.

After a moment of chit-chat, he made a request: “Rand … please don’t blame Melanie (the front desk trainee) for the mix-up. She’s only a trainee.” My response chilled him: “I DON’T blame Melanie; I blame YOU!”

I then added the following: “You hire the people; you train the people; you’re responsible for their preparation or lack thereof. Therefore, if there’s blame for this, it rests with you. I don’t think, however, that blame serves a useful purpose. Blame begets fear. In this case, you unintentionally hanged Melanie out to dry. You now have a credibility issue with a member of your team.”

He got my point, and I returned to my room to find that in my absence, my stuff had been moved to a suite.

This incident was full of lessons for Melanie, her boss, for you, and for me:

  • If you want something, ask for it. Too often we harbor unarticulated expectations. When they go unfulfilled, we become frustrated, angry, and resentful. If you ask for something, you may or may not get it. If you DON’T, however, you’ll never know.
  • When dealing with customers, “maybe” is a lousy answer. When BEING a customer, settling for “maybe” may assure lousy service for the vendor’s NEXT customer/client.
  • Putting untrained people on the front line to deal with customers may facilitate their learning. It may also instigate ill will toward you by the customer. Make sure your customer-facing associates are either fully competent or are supported by an experienced back-up person.

I’m sure there’s more, but you get the idea.

The Importance of Trust

People in organizations talk about trust. Much of that time, however, is devoted to talking about others who they do NOT trust. I hear comments like the following with regularity:

• “I don’t trust my boss. He gives me an assignment and then micro-manages me.”

• (From a CEO) “I don’t trust that most people in the company are prepared to do the jobs that they’re supposed to do.”

• “My spouse doesn’t trust me. Whenever I go on a business trip, he gives me the ‘third degree’ when I return.”

Trust is a “loaded” word. It’s invoked in disparate situations, generally describing negative aspects of a relationship. In truth, it’s multi-dimensional.

When working with clients, I describe trust as having two broad meanings with many implications:

Trust is “confidence in competence.” This is frequently an overlooked definition of the word. Whether you are a boss, a team member, or just working among peers, the level of confidence you have in the competence of others (and they in you) determines levels of authority, autonomy, and responsibility that are delegated as well as accountability for results.

Trust is the “assumption of intent.” When you trust another person, you assume that he/she has positive intent. When you don’t trust that person, you assume that person’s negative intent. In this context, trust has a complex “anatomy” that includes the following:

Boundaries – I trust that you are clear about your boundaries and can hold them, and that you are clear about my boundaries and respect them.

Reliability – I can only trust you if you do what you say you are going to do – over and over and over again.

Accountability – I can only trust you if, when you make a mistake, you are willing to own it, to apologize for it, and to make amends. I can only trust you if, when I make a mistake, I am allowed to own it, to apologize for it, and to make amends.

Vault – What I share with you, you hold in confidence; what you share with me; I hold in confidence; we do not share anything that is not ours to share (gossip). In our relationship, I see you acknowledge confidentiality; we do not create false intimacy by having a common enemy.

Integrity – I cannot trust you and be in a trusting relationship with you if you do not act from a place of integrity and encourage me to do the same (choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; practicing your values rather than just professing your values).

Non-judgment – I can fall apart, ask for help, and struggle without being judged by you; you can fall apart, ask for help and struggle without being judged by me; trust = help that is non-judgmental and reciprocal.

Generosity – Our relationship is only a trusting relationship if you can assume the most generous thing about my words, intention, and behavior, and then check in with me.

Using these criteria, how many of us have truly trusting relationships in either our workplaces, our homes, or among friends? Real trust requires that we dissolve our egos. It’s courageous; wimps need not apply.

Trust is a lubricant that reduces friction, a bonding agent that glues together disparate parts, a catalyst that facilitates action. No substitute – neither the carrot nor the stick – does the job as well.

In every context, trust begins with a period of extending. In new relationships, we extend some degree of trust. As our actions provoke responses, positive or negative, we can withdraw, remain or extend our involvement further. While we need to be alert for danger signals, we also need to extend enough trust to move forward.

If you extend to a person who also extends, trust will grow between you. In any organization where people are trying to get a job done, we need to work at trusting others and encouraging them, through our actions, to trust us. Trust building is a dynamic process; an investment in the future. It isn’t blind; no investment ought to be. Like any investment, it’s a calculated risk. When we trust, we are braving a connection with someone else and creating an environment in which independent and interdependent actions create purpose and effectiveness.

A personal note: I am frequently better at elocution than execution along all of these dimensions. I view my shortcomings this way: It’s about progress, not perfection.

Do You Capitalize On Leverage?

Note From Rand

Welcome to March. Spring hasn’t quite sprung, but it’s close. It’s hard for me to fathom that after a lengthy career as an executive leader, I’ve spent the last fifteen years helping other leaders create and sustain success. Wait a minute – that makes me OLD!!

I once heard someone say that he had gotten so old and time was advancing so quickly, that he felt like he was having breakfast every fifteen minutes. I’m not quite to that point, but it’s close.

This month’s column addresses “leverage” – a concept that is often better understood abstractly than it is in practice. It’s one of the handful of things that can make a huge difference in your level of purpose and prosperity. Enjoy it; learn from it; use it. Until April and as always: Get real, get tough and get going.

Do You Capitalize On Leverage?

In the real estate world, we read and hear a lot about the power of leverage. Essentially, it means investing a limited amount of personal cash to geometrically increase net worth. Let’s say you buy a piece of rental property for $300,000 with a down payment of 20%. You laid out $60,000. The rental on the property covers your monthly mortgage and all of the expenses to maintain the property, so the investment is cash flow neutral (for simplicity sake).

In ten years, you anticipate selling the property for $600,000. After you pay off the mortgage, you get a return of $360,000 on your original investment of $60,000. Six times your down payment in ten years. Not bad. If this was new information for you, you’re probably reading the wrong newsletter. I do have two bigger points: First, leverage has power in every area of life. Second, the failure to exploit leverage will lead you to an unsatisfying life.

Let me explain.

My “bigger” definition of leverage is employing time, talent and money to create a disproportionately high level of value. Let’s take a look at a business example: Several years ago, one of my clients, John, owned one car dealership. His personal annual income and net worth ($500,000 and $3.5 million, respectively) were enviable for a guy in his early 40s. John was not, however, a happy camper. He had not taken a vacation of longer than three days in six years. His relationship with his family was tenuous, at best. He was also an anal, detail monger in the office. Although he professed that he trusted his people to do their jobs well, his demeanor portrayed something else. He submerged himself in almost every decision – even those for which he had no background or expertise – not because he added value, but because he could. His typical work week of 75 to 80 hours was a source of personal pride. John was also 50 lbs. overweight and suffering from high blood pressure because, he said, he was forced to eat on the run and had no time for a fitness regime.

Let’s review the bidding here: We have a financially successful guy with an unrewarding, unhealthy, unbalanced, obsessive/compulsive life. Is that what you want?

Four years later, here’s the picture: John has an income and net worth of $1.5 million and $12 million, respectively. Last year, he took off 180 days (that’s not a typo)! He has a hyper-qualified (and highly paid) president now running the business. He is working about 40 hours a week. John’s time in the office is now consumed in two areas: the performance and development of people and prospecting for acquisitions. His family life is much improved, and he has lost the 50 lbs. with a regular routine of running, lifting weights, yoga and meditation. His blood pressure has improved to 105/70.

The only difference in the “two Johns” is leverage. He now dedicates his time and talent to activities which give him a disproportionately high payback for the resources invested. That requires a complete understanding of his strengths and passions. Where they intersect, he wades in. Where they don’t, he steers clear.

Many, many business people become martyrs and then brag about it as if self-sacrifice is sexy! Tony Robbins says, “life rewards action.” That’s an incomplete assertion. Life really rewards RELEVANT action. In order to be relevant, action has to produce the results you intend. Otherwise, it’s just MOVEMENT. Relevant action must create leverage. Otherwise, personal and professional growth and success are not possible.

Don’t major in minor things. Use your own personal leverage to your advantage.

Development Lessons from RGIII and Aaron Rodgers

Note From Rand

We’ve almost arrived at Super Bowl Sunday – too much eating, too much drinking, and yes, sandwiched between all of those commercials there is actually a football game.

In keeping with that theme, I’m invoking two case studies this month. One is the story of Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins; the other is the story of Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. Comparing the journeys of these two gentlemen yields some interesting lessons regarding personal development that you can employ immediately. I think you’ll find them to be thought-provoking, instructive, and entertaining.

Until next month and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going!

Development Lessons from RGIII and Aaron Rodgers

If you read this publication, you absolutely know that I’m a sports fan. I’ve always been a participant as well as an observer. I believe in keeping a VERY active lifestyle. But I digress!

Along with many people (male and female) in the U.S., I’m an unabashed NFL fan. I cheer for the Washington Redskins, but I’m much more a fan of specific individuals. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Greg Olson are among my favorite players. Pete Carroll, (former coach) Tony Dungy and Mike Tomlin are among my favorite coaches. The only common threads that exist among these people are their authenticity, resilience, perseverance and spirit of community service. I’ve researched each of these people’s “stories” in depth, because I’m fascinated by the pursuit of excellence in any field. I believe that success in team sports and team success in business are analogous.

Being a Redskins fan, I pay particular attention to developments among players and coaches there, looking for leadership (or lack thereof) nuggets, which brings me to my subject: Robert Griffin III, Aaron Rodgers and some lessons they can provide you.

Robert Griffin III was the ‘Skins phenom rookie quarterback in 2012. Having won the Heisman Trophy at Baylor, having graduated 7th in his class and coming from a disciplined, respectful military family, RGIII went on to win NFL Rookie of the year. Two concerns that coaches and scouts had before the NFL draft his senior year in college: He was an undisciplined quarterback (lots of athletic skill but not much disciplined “quarterback intelligence”), and he had blown out a knee in college requiring ACL surgery with a protracted rehab.

Griffin dazzled during his first year in the NFL and took the Redskins to the playoffs for the first time in five years. In a midseason game, he injured his knee (the same knee on which he had surgery in college) but kept playing. In his first playoff game against the Seahawks, he once again tore his ACL, again requiring surgery.

When RGIII came back, he was not the same guy. He attempted to learn and perform in coach Mike Shanahan’s system. That required a bit less athleticism but a lot more brainpower. He was unsuccessful. The Redskins benched him after their preseason games in 2015 and moved on with great success to Kirk Cousins.

I spoke to several people who would know about Griffin’s inability or disinclination to work in a more cerebral system. Each said that team management believed he would come back post-surgery, learn to be an NFL quarterback rather than a free-wheeler and be successful. Why? Because they believed that he had the intelligence to do that. “Look at his college grades,” one person admonished. Robert Griffin was “book smart.”

Aaron RodgersAaron Rodgers grew up in California where he did well in school and was an undersized quarterback. He scored over 1300 on his SAT (when a perfect score was 1600). The combination of his football performance and academic performance led him to believe that he’d be highly recruited. His slight body (at the time) overrode his attributes and virtually no schools recruited him. Rodgers desperately wanted to develop as a football player, and he enrolled at a community college to hone his skills; he performed superbly. That led to a scholarship at The University of California at Berkeley where he again performed brilliantly and was expected to be one of the first three choices in the NFL draft. He was drafted twenty-fourth by the Packers, which was a great disappointment that further sharpened his “edge.”

As a Packer, Rodgers sat on the bench for three years behind Brett Favre who gave him little attention. When asked about that, Favre said, “It’s not my job to train the guy who may take my place.” When he eventually got the starting job in 2008, he was not a popular guy. Fans in Green Bay shouted, “We want Brett,” as Rodgers initially struggled. A few years later, Rodgers took the Packers to the Super Bowl, which they won. He also won the league MVP award twice and is a lock to be voted into the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Some vital information about Rodgers’ Intelligence BEYOND classroom smarts: He won celebrity Jeopardy last year, easily topping astronaut and physicist Mark Kelly and venture capitalist Kevin O’Leary. Per people that know him, that victory came down to “his intelligence and reflexes” (i.e. an ability to process information quickly and click the buzzer fast). Both of which are critical attributes for a quarterback.

In addition to needing only two days to memorize his college playbook (which he did), Rodgers has a quick, integrative mind. He can process lots of diverse information, integrate it into a cohesive whole, make a decision as to what to do with that cohesive whole, and take action with that decision almost instantaneously. “Classroom smart” may be a necessary component of quarterback success; “performance quick” is even more so.

Here’s what this means for you: Most of us think of “strengths” and “weaknesses” in very general terms. I hear CEOs ALL THE TIME describe people (for example) as being “smart,” as having “people skills,” or being “analytical.” Those are abstract terms that are useless when it comes to personal development. Robert Griffin is smart; so is Aaron Rodgers. In order to really understand the application and utility of each of their intelligence, one must be able to describe what each is able to DO!

When an executive tells me that one of his/her associates is (again, for example) not a good collaborator, I ask the following: “When he is not being a good collaborator, what is he doing that he should stop doing, and what is he not doing that he should start doing?” If the executive says: “In staff meetings, he intimidates people,” I ask the same two questions again, until we get to the root of the issue in terms that are behavioral, action-oriented, specific and granular.

Redskins management should have known that integrative thinking and processing speed were not among Robert Griffin’s strengths when they charged him with leading an offense that was complex and wouldn’t depend solely on athleticism. YOU should know your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of the people who report to you, in finite detail, or your development initiatives will be wasted.

This is a Test – Just the Facts

Note From Rand

It’s January in Maryland, and we’ve yet to receive one snowflake. I LOVE IT! We may pay for this later, but our winter has so far been a non-event. As I write this, I can see boats out on the water in St. Michaels. After a couple of tough winters, this is a welcomed respite.

If anyone had told me in September that the Redskins would make the playoffs, I’d have recommended a psychiatric exam. Low and behold, here they are. This Sunday – the Packers. I predicted in September of 2013 and 2014 that the Seahawks would win the Super Bowl. I was correct once and incorrect once. This year, I also predicted a Seattle Super Bowl victory, and I see no reason to change that prediction now.

This month’s column challenges your decision-making objectivity with a test. You’ll have some fun with it and hopefully learn something about your unconscious biases and preconceptions.

Until February and as always: Get real, get tough, and get going.

Just the Facts

I’ve often written in the past about decision-making biases. ALL OF US rely to some degree on decision-making approaches that yield suboptimum results. Most of those are unconscious. An example is the human tendency to use past experiences, even if statistically insufficient, to make critical decisions about the future. Another – confirmation bias – compels us to depend on evidence that conforms to our preconceptions and ignores evidence that contradicts our preconceptions. There are a lot more of these.

Emotion vs. Mind

The discipline of Behavioral Economics examines the ways in which human psychology intersects with traditional economic theory. The concepts are easy to understand and still easier to apply TO OTHERS when we see examples. However, we rarely if ever, see evidence of those decision-making biases IN OURSELVES.

To illustrate and instruct, I often ask a group of executives to take a “test” that involves reading a simple three-paragraph story, and then answering twelve questions about what they read. That test follows. Read the instructions, and then answer the questions. At the conclusion, I’ll ask you to consider the ways in which your preconceptions or biases may have affected your answers. I’ll include the correct answers, but don’t read ahead, or you’ll be wasting your time.


Read the following story, and then respond to the statements that follow with True, False, or Unknown.

The supervisor yelled at the new recruit.

The young man waited until the supervisor was gone and poured sand into the machine, smiling and shaking his head.

Later that month, the boss discovered the problem and fired him.


I. After being yelled at, the young man poured
something into the machine.

II. Two men are involved in this story.

III. If the supervisor had not yelled at the young man,
he might not have ruined the machine.

IV. It took the supervisor one month to realize that
the new recruit had ruined the machine.

V. Sand was put into the machine.

VI. One man yelled at another; the new recruit poured
sand in a machine; someone was fired.

VII. The supervisor fired the new recruit.

VIII. The new recruit was a man.

IX. The new recruit got revenge on the supervisor,
but the supervisor retaliated in the end.

X. No one was fired.

XI. The new recruit waited until the boss was
gone before pouring sand in the machine.

XII. When the supervisor found that sand had been
poured in the machine, he fired the young man.

It seems like a pretty easy exercise, but it’s not. Its simplicity illustrates the point that even in routine situations, we frequently over-rely on our inner voice of experience, bias, or speculation when making decisions.

The correct answers: Number 5 is true; number 10 is false. All the rest are unknown. Go back and tabulate your score. If you got them all correct, you are in a VERY small minority. A few questions for those of you who DIDN’T get them all correct:

• What assumptions did you make where no facts were given?

• What preconceptions or biases might be the source of those assumptions?

• When confronted with more difficult decisions, how might your decision-making be clouded, and what might be the consequences of that?

• What formal decision-making structures and methods do you have in place to countervail legitimate or incomplete intuition, as well as biases and preconceptions? How well are those structures and methods serving you?

I help executives create formal structures for legitimate decision-making. Those honor experience and intuition, but recognize that ALL of us rely too heavily on arriving at the answers we WANT rather than those that we NEED.