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Let’s not be so CALM

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From time to time, I encounter organizations that have some sort of “Authentic Leadership” or “Servant Leadership” initiative.

What differentiates these “leadership” (note the quotes) paradigms from others, is the primacy of  focus on the well being of the individual and the team within an organization.

Here is CALM:  ( I have made some highlights in blue)

As part of the Authentic Leadership, CALM  is “The Collaborative Authentic Leadership Model”.  The term Authentic Leadership sounds hokey but it is an approach to leadership based on self-knowledge, passion, integrity, consistency, and concern for others.

CALM places a value on:

  • Trust—the degree to which team members can be counted on to act in the best interests of the other team members.
  • Transparency—the degree to which there is clarity of purpose and intention behind decisions and actions.
  • Openness and realism—the degree to which team members are dealing honestly and directly with challenges and needs, both team and personal.
  • Fairness and respect—the degree to which team members are treated fairly, regardless of rank or role.
  • Inspiration—the degree to which there is understanding of what is important to each team member and a culture of support for helping each member realize his or her potential.

CALM is designed to:

  • Be invitationalCALM is something a team volunteers to sign up for, rather than something that is imposed on it from above or outside.
  • Be local—CALM can be employed within a team independent of what other organizations choose to do.
  • Apply to everyone at any level—CALM is not just for people in management positions or situational leadership roles. Collaborative Authentic Leadership arises out of personal influence, which is fueled by an individual’s passion, trust, empathy, and desire to act in the best interest of others.
  • Be ready for practical application—CALM does not depend on professional coaches or expensive “retooling” investments. CALM addresses the team-based project, organizational, and service context, including the types of challenges inhibiting authentic work environments.
  • Take a holistic viewpoint—The CALM framework covers personal development as well as team development, and the means are provided to help individuals extend CALM to their non‑business spheres of activity if they so wish.
  • Be flexible—CALM should be judiciously applied. Elements in each CALM dimension can be adapted to the degree that suits the business situation, team culture, and individual goals.

The Take

I’ve seen this several times times now.  What I can say, based on experience,  is that these sorts of leadership paradigms generally originate from the lower parts of the organization.  In large global publicly-held corporations Authentic Leadership and Servant Leadership are far from the first choice of a leadership style embraced by the executive management team for the organization.

At best, senior leadership gives lip service to these paradigms.  You may hear about these programs and read about them in the glossy publications for public consumption but they are seldom acted upon or implemented.  If an organization has programs and initiatives with names that sound like “employee first”, “voice of the employee”.. well, that’s a company that is trying to get its “employee engagement” scores up.

Can you handle the truth?

Authentic Leadership, Servant Leadership and similar models and paradigms stress the well-being of the individual in the organization.  The truth of the matter is, for a publicly held company, the well-being of the owners of the company are of primary importance and you have a Board of Directors that are there to ensure that this is indeed the case.  Publicly held companies are on a treadmill to produce results and report on those results in 3 month intervals (quarterly SEC 10-K).  The great thing about capitalism is that those companies that are not competitive are dismantled and the resources are re-distributed to those that can make better economic use of those resources.

If a company where to embrace the CALM value system, then…

  1. How would you ever fire anyone for poor performance or incompetency? “… team members can be counted on to act in the best interests of the other team members.”.  Team members should be counted on to act in the best interest of the owners of the company – not themselves or their other team members.
  2. How would you build high-performance teams?  “… team members are dealing honestly and directly with challenges and needs, both team and personal.”  If a team member has personal challenges, then maybe that team member has to be let go for the good of the team.
  3. “…understanding of what is important to each team member and a culture of support for helping each member realize his or her potential.”  For whom does a company exist?  Does the company exist for the employees or are the employees there for the benefit of the company and its owners?
  4. “…is fueled by an individual’s passion, trust, empathy, and desire to act in the best interest of others.”  Employee’s first or owners first?

Under the CALM system how could you downsize a company due to shrinking demand for products or services?  How could you close divisions because a product line is obsolete (e.g. photographic film processing, traditional print media, travel agents, booksellers, etc.).  If you strictly embraced the CALM value system then how could a company compete in a global marketplace and with rapid technological change if they put incumbent employee welfare and job security first as opposed to meeting the challenges with “workforce optimization” (code word) and corporate transformation?

As soon as employee’s at every level, including the C-Suite realize, that a company does not exist for them then the better off they will be.  Especially, when trying to understand why you got fired, laid off, offered early retirement, otherwise terminated.

CALM seems more of a recipe to further employee personal self-interest.  The losers seem to be the organizations customers and owners when their interests and their satisfaction play a subordinate role to employee well-being, self-interest, and job security.

Written by frrl

September 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Henry Ford: On Mens Desire for Corporate Advancement

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Heny Ford was one of the great industrialists of the turn of the 20th century.  He was born July 30, 1863 in Wayne county, Michigan and died April 7, 1947, Dearborn, Michigan.  Henry Ford revolutionized transportation and American industry through the mass production and the assembly line. (read more).

If you didn’t know – and now you do know, Henry Ford wrote a book, “My Life and Work”.  In this book you will find Ford’s thoughts on all sorts of subjects.  For example, here are a few chapter headings: What is an Idea?  What I learned about business.  The terror of the machine.  Wages.  Why be poor?  Why Charity?  Democracy and Industry.  And, What we may expect.

Published in 1922, My Life and Work  is now in the public domain and available for Kindle for free –
(The Kindle reader is free as well for many devices)

If you are interested in the history of the industrial age in general or the history of the auto industry in particular or even the Zeitgeist of the time as told by one of the greatest people of the industrial age then this is a must read.

There are tons of interesting observations by Ford on the nature of work and man’s relation to work and business.

It’s now nearly 100 years after Ford wrote this book and Ford’s observation about Men and advancement in the corporate world has not changed much over 10 decades.  When I read the paragraphs below I remembered my experience of an employee who asked an executive in an “all hands” meeting with about 1,000 people listening… “What do the goals of this company have to do with me?”

To many other employees this was a legitimate question.
To the executives, this question was a shocker.

The education of any corporate executive, if they do not know simple facts already, should include the reading of this passage from Ford’s My Life and Work prior to being handed the key to the executive washroom.  It will save the executive years, if  not decades, of frustration over failed plans for employee innovation, expensive learning and  talent development programs, and any other device or machination intended to advance employees to the head of the class.

From My Life and Work by Henry Ford Chapter 6 – Men and Machines

There is no difficulty in picking out men. They pick themselves out because—although one hears a great deal about the lack of opportunity for advancement—the average workman is more interested in a steady job than he is in advancement.

Scarcely more than five per cent, of those who work for wages, while they have the desire to receive more money, have also the willingness to accept the additional responsibility and the additional work which goes with the higher places.

Only about twenty-five per cent are even willing to be straw bosses, and most of them take that position because it carries with it more pay than working on a machine. Men of a more mechanical turn of mind, but with no desire for responsibility, go into the tool-making departments where they receive considerably more pay than in production proper.

But the vast majority of men want to stay put. They want to be led. They want to have everything done for them and to have no responsibility. Therefore, in spite of the great mass of men, the difficulty is not to discover men to advance, but men who are willing to be advanced.

The accepted theory is that all people are anxious for advancement, and a great many pretty plans have been built up from that.

I can only say that we do not find that to be the case. The Americans in our employ do want to go ahead, but they by no means do always want to go clear through to the top. The foreigners, generally speaking, are content to stay as straw bosses.

Why all of this is, I do not know. I am giving the facts.

Has much changed in 100 years? Read a related article and a thesis on why engineers turn down offers of advancement


Kindle Reader for your PC

Henry Ford, My Life and Work (free Kindle edition)

Written by frrl

September 13, 2011 at 10:32 pm

TSA Blocking Web Sites – 1400 Internet Site Blocking

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This is an easy one and I think the early news media reporting this story have missed the point completely.

Blocking web sites is common practice at thousands of corporations.  In the US, sites are blocked primarily for reasons of degraded employee productivity – not one of censorship.  What company wants their employees wasting time “surfing the internet” unrelated to the employees job? More to the point, why would a company retain employees who are found to spend their time browsing web sites rather than doing their job?  Why would any company tolerate any of this time-wasting?

This is really a measure of toleration for poor performance.  And, I would venture a guess that there is a positive correlation among:  low performing organizations against peers in its industry,  the amount of time logged web surfing job-unrelated internet content, and the quality of the leadership in its tolerance for poor performance.

It really goes deeper than that.  Blocking game sites to stop employees from playing games at work is treating the symptom rather than the cause.  Mayor Daley in Chicago wants to take guns away from people so they don’t kill each other.  Taking games away from TSA employees, just like taking guns away from people in Chicago, doesn’t necessarily diminish the desire of these people to play games or kill people – maybe both for the right kind of games.

An opportunity to face Reality

In both cases, the real value of these types of events is that it gives one the opportunity to face reality in a few ways.  First, it is clear that the TSA recognizes they have a problem with employee behavior.  Second, they have treated the symptom rather than the cause.  Third, they are simply delaying the real solution to the identified employee behavior problem by not getting to the root cause of why these folks are going to these sites in the first place.

And I did not see “pornography” on the list of blocked sites.  So, that content must be, “OK”.  That activity seems popular at the Securities and Exchange Commission. (read and watch)

If TSA really wanted to block access by employees to sites of “controversial opinion” – if it really is a matter of censorship – then wouldn’t they have to block access after these folks left work and went home?  Not about censorship – it’s about employee productivity.

Written by frrl

July 6, 2010 at 5:16 pm

The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us

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“The conscience of a people is their power” – John Dryden

“Minds differ still more than faces” – Voltaire

Have you ever heard someone say “I did nothing wrong” when in fact you and a great many other people thought what they did was very wrong?  In fact, so wrong that the majority of people asked themselves, “How could anyone possibly do that?”

The risk to yourself  is to think that other people think like you or me.  Or, to think that the great majority of people are ruled by some sort of  standard of right and wrong; standards of which, are accessible to all of us – a sort of 6’th sense that we all have.

Martha Stout Ph.D is a clinical psychologist in private practice who also served for twenty-five years on the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

Dr. Stout has an interesting description of public figures or people you might know

Imagine – if you can – not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern of the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members.  Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken. 

And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.  Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. 

Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.  You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness.  The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.  You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences, will most likely remain undiscovered.

How many people are like this?  Dr. Stout thinks that 1 in 25 people in the population is a sociopath.

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Written by frrl

June 23, 2010 at 3:15 am

The Law of the Lid Part II – The intractable definition of career success

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Surprised to see Lady Gaga at the front of the Fast Company list of the top 100 creative people for 2010? – well, maybe not.  A little more reasonable is number two on the list – Eddy Cue  ( read it )

Steve Jobs may own the limelight, but Eddy Cue, 46, holds the key to the Apple kingdom. Cue runs arguably the most disruptive 21st-century Web businesses: iTunes and the App Store, the latter of which is poised to create a $4 billion app economy by 2012. The unassuming Cue shot up through Apple’s ranks in the late ’80s, going from desktop support to Hollywood power broker, cutting deals for movies and music. Cue’s next campaign will be challenging Amazon’s Kindle dominance, with the Cupertino cocktail of the iPad and the iBook store.

It’s good to see someone who made it from “desktop support” to Apple Vice President.  That is quite a trip – from helping someone with their desktop hardware or software to leading a part of the Apple enterprise that is projected to tap a market to generate $4 billion in revenue.

If Eddy is 46 years old now as Apple VP in 2010, and if he started out in the 1980’s as desktop support – then that is a nearly 20+ year career journey.  Good for him!

The intractable definition of career success

It’s amazing the diversity of the definition of career success.  If Eddy, at 46, was still a desktop support person, would he be considered a failure?   Is there a “right way” and a “wrong way” when it comes to careers?  How and why is Eddy Cue, at 46, a Vice President at Apple and not a desktop support person? 

Is preference for progress or personal achievement an  unfair bias?

Is it an unfair bias to say that people “must” have a career progression – and if not, they have failed in their careers?  What about the “bias” of progress in history?  Is it a foregone conclusion that we must see progress in culture and history?  What if the colonization of America by Europeans resulted in the Europeans taking on the culture of native american indians and keeping the status quo?

If America was, in 2010, simply a static repetition of the native american culture and “progress” that we see today in 2010  (science, culture, technology) was erased then would America be a “failure” against its potential?  What makes one way better than another way?  If America never landed a man on the moon, never became a superpower, never built great cities, or did anything that America is known for, would it be considered a failure aginst its potential?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Are personal careers like the progress of a nation or culture?  Is “progress” demanded, and is it “natural”?  And if the progress in your career is like the progress of history and culture then is the lack of progress considered some sort of failure?  A failure of ability to achieve potential.  Again, why is “progress” better than no progress?  What about mediocrity?  What’s so bad about mediocrity – or just being “average”? It certainly takes less effort to be average than it takes to be remarkable?  Why be remarkable?  What drives people toward achievement?  And, why is mediocrity acceptable, and preferred, by some people?

If the worldwide global culture was still “swinging in the trees” would it matter?  Or, is there something “natural” in human being that progress is natural, and that lack of progress is somehow to be avoided,  undesirable, and to be discouraged?

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Written by frrl

June 21, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Toxic Corporate Cultures: Lessons from the Enron Debacle

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What can we learn about corporate cultures from the Enron Debacle?

Dr. Paul Wong, a Clinical Psychologist, took a stab at identifying five aspects of a Toxic Corporate Culture.  He wrote an easy-to-read 6 page paper – Lessons from the Enron Debacle: Corporate Culture Matters!

So, take a read

From the paper, here are the five signs of a toxic corporate culture and four signs of health.  This is just a summary.  Each of the these are treated in more detail in the paper along with background on how Enron conducted business.

Toxic Corporate Cultures

The following corporate cultures are described as toxic because they are dysfunctioning in terms of relationships and adjustment to changing times. They undermine the social/spiritual capital, poison the work climate and contribute to organizational decline.

  1. Authoritarian-hierarchical culture – The big boss alone makes all the major decisions behind closed doors. Even when the decisions are harmful to the company, no one dares to challenge the boss. The standard mode of operandum is command and control, with no regard to the well being of employees or the future of the company.   Hierarchies without accountability tend to have a corrupting influence on ambitious, autocratic leaders. When the boss is dysfunctional and has the power to impose his selfish, irrational decisions on others, the entire company suffers.
  2. Competing-conflictive culture – There is always some sort of power struggle going on. Leaders are plotting against each other and stabbing each other on the back. Different units and even different individuals within a unit are undercutting, backstabbing each other to gain some competitive advantage. There is a lack of trust and cooperation. People often hide important information from each other and even sabotage each other’s efforts to ensure that only they will come up on top.  There is no regard for the larger picture and the overall goal of the company. It is everyman for himself.  Both management and workers are obsessed with their own survival and self-interests.
  3. Laissez faire culture – There is a vacuum at the top, either because the leader is incompetent and ignorant, or because he is too preoccupied with his personal affairs to pay much attention to the company. Consequently, there is an absence of directions, standards and expectations. When there is an absence of effective leadership, each department, in fact, each individual does whatever they want. The leadership void will also tempt ambitious individuals to seize power to benefit themselves. Chaos and confusion are the order of the day. No one has a clear sense where the company is going. Often, employees receive conflicting directions and signals. Often, decisions are made in the morning only to be nullified in the afternoon. Given the lack of direction, oversight and accountability all across-the-board, productivity declines. In this kind of culture, the company either disintegrates or becomes an easy target for a hostile takeover.
  4. Dishonest-corrupt culture – In this culture, greed is good and money is God. There is little regard for ethics or the law. Such attitudes permeate the whole company from the top down to individual workers. Bribery, cheating, and fraudulent practices are widespread. Creative accounting and misleading profit reports are a matter of routine. Denial, rationalization and reputation management enable them carry on their unethical and often illegal activities until they are caught red-handed or exposed by correcting forces of the market. When management are blinded by greed and ambition, their judgment becomes distorted and their decisions become seriously flawed; as a result, they often cross the line without being aware of it. Enron serves as a good example.
  5. Rigid-traditional culture – There is a strong resistance to any kind of change. The leadership clings to out-dated methods and traditions, unwilling to adapt to the changes in the market place. They live in past glory and any change poses a threat to their deeply entrenched values and their sense of security. Workers are discouraged or even reprimanded for suggesting innovative ideas.

The five types of toxic cultures are not mutually exclusive. For an example, a corporation may be both authoritarian and traditional. Similarly, a corporation can be both authoritarian and corrupt. When a company suffers from a multiple of diseases, drastic operations are needed to save it from demise. Unfortunately, not many managers are competent in the diagnosis and treatment of toxic corporate cultures.

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Written by frrl

June 7, 2010 at 11:38 am

Who owns culture? Culture as a corporate differentiator

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Who Owns Culture?

Over the past few days we posted a few articles on culture.  To the question, “Who owns culture?” applied to society or to a nation, in a free society like the United States, one might say that “no one” (no person and no group) owns Culture. 

That is, in a free society, people are free to read the culture, and re/write the culture for this and the next generation.  For all we know, this is nothing more than a random walk into an uncertain future.  For people that take the long-view, this scares them.  (Read a related article.)

To the question, “Who owns culture?” applied to a corporation, the answer is easy.  The culture is owned by the CEO and the Board of Directors. 

Just about every major corporation has a page on their web site dedicated to “espousing” the corporate vision and core values of the corporate culture.  I say “espousing” the corporate values insofar as sometimes much of this is Public Relations for consumption by investors and customers. 

The real test of corporate values is behavior.  You only need to look at the behavior of Enron, WorldCom and other poster children of corporate corruptionto to see what can go wrong despite exemplary stagecraft of corporate value systems. is a real success story.  Started by Tony Hsieh in his early 20’s, Tony is smarter than the average CEO about corporate culture.  In fact, Zappos is built around living the corporate culture that it espouses.

Perhaps Tony’s emphasis on corporate culture was based on the previous company he founded, LinkExchange.  In one interview, Tony said that they hired people with the right skill sets and experience but were not culture fits – then the whole company went down from there.  Asked what he would do over when he started Zappos, Hsieh replied that he would “hire more slowly and fire more quickly”.

Paying new employees $2,000 to quit

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Written by frrl

June 7, 2010 at 3:24 am

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