Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The secret of thoroughly excellent companies

Check out this blog by Peter Bergman . He identifies what he believes is the secret to excellent companies. It has everything to do with leadership, and his bottom line, the critical ingredient, is something I have blogged about previously.

His description of how his favored hotel is run is also a good description of The Principle of Value from the book "The Go-Giver". I love this principle:

Your true worth is determined by how much more you give in value than
you take in payment.

There is no substitute for genuine caring for others - it enriches all aspects of our personal porfolios.

Three Good Things

At the end of each day, after dinner and before going to sleep, write down three things that went well during the day. Do this every night for a week. The three things you list can be relatively small in importance (“my colleague brought donuts to work today”) or relatively large in importance (“my boss got a promotion”). After each positive event on your list, answer in your own words the question “Why did this good thing happen?” For example, you might speculate that your colleague brought donuts “because she can be really thoughtful” or “because I remembered to call her and remind her to bring them.” When asked why your boss got a promotion you might explain, “He was next in line for one,” or “His hard work and excellence was finally recognized.”

So, for each day:

1. Three things that went well during the day
2. Your explanation for why they happened

After you have done this for a few days, think about how this exercise might be affecting your own behavior. Are you doing anything different as a result? What and why? Are you feeling different as a result? How and why?

Adapted from Peterson (2006) A Primer in Positive Psychology

Monday, March 30, 2009


Are you in your organization to do something, or are you in your organization for something to do? If the answer is “to do something”, what is it that you want to do? On a piece of paper, write at the top “What I want to accomplish.” Now make a list of all the things that you want to achieve in your organization. For each item, ask yourself, “Why do I want this?” Keep asking why until you run out of reasons. By doing this exercise, you’re likely to discover those few idealized ends for which you strive.

Here are some additional questions that you can use in clarifying your purpose:

How would I like to change the world for myself and my organization?
How do I want to be remembered?
If I could invent the future, what future would I invent for myself and my organization?
What mission in life absolutely obsesses me?
What’s my dream about work?
What’s my most distinctive skill or talent?
What’s my burning passion?
What work do I find absorbing, involving, and enthralling?
What will happen in ten years if I remain absorbed, involved, and enthralled in that work?
What does my ideal organization look like?
What’s my personal agenda? What do I want to prove?

Now that you have a list of what you want to do and why you want to do it, do you see any patterns in the “whys?”

Develop a statement of purpose. The statement of purpose should represent why you do the things you do. It is not about what, when, where, or how you do your work, but about why. Once you understand your purpose, the what, when, where, and how of your work can and will change over time, but the why will remain the same.

Your purpose should be short and easy to remember, and it should serve as a guide to your daily behavior.

My purpose is to change your mind about the value of partnering with others to build healthy, responsible organizations where everyone can thrive.

Adapted from Kouzes & Posner (2007) The Leadership Challenge

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Another positive concept I find extremely attractive is interpersonal trust, the kind found in close relationships. There is no more important relationship at work than the relationship between an employee and his/her immediate supervisor. I think trust is huge.

Think of trust this way – it represents an individual’s willingness to be vulnerable to another in situations involving risk (Mayer et al. 1995). In my most recent research, my colleagues and I found a direct relationship between trust and employee performance (Simmons et al. 2009).

Ultimately, we have no control over whether or not people will trust us. But we do control how trustworthy we are. When people are evaluating us, deciding how willing they are to make themselves vulnerable to us, they are looking mainly for three things:

· Ability: Trust is domain specific, so we need to be really good at what we do. Expertise and proven performance go a long way toward encouraging people to trust us.

· Integrity: To have integrity, we need to speak and act in ways consistent with what others value. Honesty alone is not good enough – we have to stand for things our folks stand for, and we cannot waiver when the heat is on.

· Benevolence: This is the most important one. It’s all about intentions. Have you ever really trusted anyone you knew did not have your best interest in mind? We can cooperate with folks that don’t intend to treat us right, but we certainly don’t trust them. People can tell if we do or do not sincerely care about them, and it is one of the first and most important things they want to know about us.

There is no substitute for caring.


One of the things I have looked at the most is hope. I’ve been attracted to the concept from the moment I first saw it.

Hope is the belief that one has the will and the way to accomplish valued goals at work (Snyder et al. 1996). When we have something of value to work for, the “waypower” or knowledge of how to get the things we value, and the “willpower” to put for the effort to strive for those things, hope is alive. To the extent any of these is missing, hope wanes.

My research on hope is very exploratory, but I have consistently found a strong relationship between hope and health in employees. In fact, hope is so strong it overwhelms the presence of all the bad stuff (e.g. anxiety, burnout).

Much to my surprise, I have personally not found a direct relationship between hope and employee performance, although a few others have. It is very difficult to publish those findings, because the bias toward hope and other POB concepts is to present it as “positive” as possible.

I love the concept of hope, but from an evidence-based perspective, the jury is still out.

Why do people do the things they do?

When behavior hits our radar screen at work, it is usually when someone has done something wrong, or at least unexpected. When it gets our attention, we naturally begin to formulate explanations for the behavior we just observed.

So what do you think is driving most of the behavior that you observe at work – things about the person (P) or things about the environment or system (E)?

Consider this:

When we attribute behavior to people rather than system
structure, the focus of management becomes the search for extraordinary people
to do the job rather than designing the job so that ordinary people can do it.
Sternberg (1994)

The law of crappy systems trumps the law of crappy

Pfeffer and Sutton (2006)