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Carl Robinson, Ph.D. on Leadership October 4, 2011
We help maximize the effectiveness of individuals and organizations by helping them improve their ability to lead, work together, select and develop their people.  Some of our related business services include: executive coaching, executive team coaching and executive assessments for development and selection.

Carl Robinson, Ph.D., Managing Principal
Seattle, Washington

In This Issue:

How to Create a Positive Workplace

Are You a Teammate or Hero?

Welcome to the Situation Room!

Book Report: Seven Steps to a Rewarding Transitional Career; Getting Work in a Tough Economy

It’s hard to imagine anyone who shouldn’t be reading this book this book right now. Effectively addressing the most crucial issues for those new to the transitional workforce, currently employed but looking to advance (or hold on), and those who have recently found themselves as casualties of the “layoff economy” Seven Steps to a Rewarding Transitional Career (HRD Press, 2009) provides far more than sage advice for professional service workers or those who are between jobs. The workbook format also demands action from the reader - rather than simply absorption of the information.
Author Dick Pinsker goes to great lengths to address personal branding, networking for career success, and how to position your previous accomplishments in ways that point to future successes. Pick up this book, and a pen – your career is waiting...

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How to Create a Positive Workplace

Why do so many organizations have a "culture of complaint?"  
(1) because it has become a habit or
(2) because they feel fearful and helpless.
Both of these reasons are important to organizations that recognize the value of a shift away from a common culture of complaint. 

While it’s true that shared experience is what brings people together, holding them together through emphasis on the negative experiences they share creates a cultural purgatory that will eventually lead to a negative affect on your bottom line.

These days, employees are being asked to do more with less, stretch their budgets, work longer and often they don’t know what the future holds. While all of this is true, it is also true that a pervasive culture of negativity bleeds the organization of its ability to bounce back and recover when it really needs to. So how can you start to shift the tide?  Here is a step-by-step guide based on The No Complaining Rule, by Jon Gordon:

  • Get your group together and explain the cost of negativity and complaining; in other words, raise awareness of your complaint culture. 
  • Discuss the difference between mindless and mindful complaining; mindless complaining focuses on problems, whereas justified complaining focuses on solutions. 
  • Make sure that everyone understands how your organization will consider and address complaints and turn problems into solutions. 
  • Listen to complaints and solutions and give all of them their air time.  Not all solutions will be used, but let your team know that they will be heard and considered. 
  • Celebrate successes of people who turned their complaints into solutions and innovations that benefited the organization.  Don’t wait for the annual meeting!  Do this continually through email, web site postings, conference calls and meetings.
Make creating a positive culture a priority amongst managers and leaders in your organization. You will find that the energy previously being spent on complaining will now be freed up for creating solutions and (ultimately), increasing productivity!

Are You a Teammate or Hero?

As a leader, what do you do when it’s time to step up and address a challenging situation? Are you able to inspire your co-workers and subordinates to get involved and contribute to the solution, or do you dive in and take over? If you feel you are the only one left at the helm during these times, then you may be taking on heroic responsibility.
At first nod, this sounds like a positive trait, but read on to find out how it detracts from your own results and alienates those around you.
Hollywood loves heroic responsibility; who doesn’t want a hero to come in and save the day? History is full of heroic responsibility. When leaders take on heroic responsibility for critical choices facing their organizations, it is often the beginning of a mass team exodus.Why is this? Isn’t becoming a heroic leader what we’ve all been practicing for?
The choice to go it alone tends to set into motion a cycle in which team players are frozen out of sharing the burden of the solution. Hijacking the situation is not going to engage the people around you.This could be detrimental for everyone. Do you want to be left holding the bag when all of your support has fled the situation?
The “all or nothing” approach with regard to responsibility and leadership fosters an infectious cycle. Here is how it goes—
  1.  Leader reacts to the first sign of hesitation from others by trying to fill a perceived void.
  2.  Members feel further marginalized, encouraging even more of a retreat.
  3.  Leader is resentful for having to single handedly bear the whole situation and collapses under the pressure.
  4.  Leader does an abrupt turnaround, flipping to an under-responsible stance to be insulated from the perceived looming failure.
  5.  Followers react by assuming over-responsibility themselves, ensuring that they will never again be dependent on a leader who lets them down.
An Infectious Attitude
Leaders often say, “no one did their part!” This is actually the result of leaders not doing their part to engage, inspire and rally all of those involved in the situation.
This dynamic can infect any relationship - in life or in a professional setting - and spreads like a virus.You can find an obvious outbreak of the virus wherever people are saying that they were tricked, duped or were “just following orders.” Of course, as a leader, we never want to hear that last remark!
Rather than seeing winning as the highest value, we must replace it with the value of making an informed choice, based on dialogue. Instead of control, we must value generating internal commitment.
Consider this: What we think about, we bring about.
Because the root of heroic responsibility is fear, the more we ponder possible failure, the more likely it becomes. Even the most seasoned leader can experience an innate “fight or flight” response when fear sets in, in the face of a high stress situation. The extremes of this response require the leader to either seize total responsibility or assume almost no responsibility.
A different, more thoughtful approach will render a positive outcome: collaboration, resource magnification, the benefits of diverse talents and perspectives. Consider your reaction the next time you are faced with an extreme situation. Remember how detrimental a fight or flight response can be. Find the “responsibility balance” and lead people through the situation to individual and organizational success.
By taking the path of mutual responsibility, we not only help ourselves but we actually protect others from the “responsibility virus” and bring them closer to the middle ground of responsibility.

Welcome to the Situation Room!

Generational Issues at the Office

Joan, the hiring manager of a mid-size training firm, conducted a series of interviews for summer interns. The summer internship typically consists of general office work, catching up on some filing projects and doing web site maintenance. Joan chose to hire Greg, the candidate who seemed most appropriate for the post. 
Nick came in on his first day and announced that he had been working on developing his own training program for large corporations, and he had chosen your firm to roll it out to the market. He had clearly gone to great lengths to prepare curriculum materials, activities and accompanying trainer notes. 
He had also prepared a presentation to show the executives at the firm. After showing Joan his full package and explaining all of his ideas and plans, he finished with the sentiment, "I'm ready to put this program into the pipeline.  …And the sooner the better!"

How would you handle this situation?

Send in your solution.

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