Do One Thing

A few years ago, a transition occurred in my life.  They happen. Life is full of transitions.  It was a catalyst for a life change for me that I will never regret.  God took a normal  evil and produces good for me and others every day.  Life is good.  Friend and family are wonderful.  There are more transitions ahead.

How did friends handle this moment of transition?Image

One asked me, “Are you okay?”  But, he was unprepared to follow through and doesn’t return phone calls.

One asked me, “How can I help?”  And, encourages regularly and  faithfully.

One asked me, “What happened?”  But only wanted gossip.

One looked at me told me to get back and refuses my phone calls.

One denied all knowledge and deferred to others.

One listened and only responds at whim.

One thanked me for my service and faithfulness and expressed genuine regret.

One listened and asked for money from me for their business and offered no support.

One listened and asked me to join their multi-level marketing organization.

One looked at me, accused me, threatened me, and looked away.

One  listened, extended compassion, extended support, and continues to followup.

One listened, connected me with meaningful service alongside them, and continues.

One spoke at me and refused to raise head or eye to make contact.

One never did anything.

One remains silent, not knowing what to say, but staying faithful in love and friendship.

It is interesting how people treat you in moments of change.  All of these were “friends”, a few still are.

In all these cases, there is really more than one that responded this way.

As a friend, how do you respond?  How do you support others?  What is your motivation?

I’ve supported many transitions in organizations and families over 3 decades of management and community service.  Some were my transition, some were transitions of others.  Truthfully, these responses are typical in each transition.  People like change and transition on their terms and their timing.  People act all sorts of weird ways when they don’t understand or have demanding motivations driving them.  They  are normal ways people respond to change.

Each of these responses comes from either a motivation of self preservation, greed, control, power, loyalty, gratefulness, disinterest, encouragement, or compassion.

Each of these represents a person, to whom  many hours and years of service and support and encouragement were extended and prior to the transition called me, “Friend”.  How do you support your friends in transitions?

How should I respond to others in transition?

The golden rule still applies.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Though people may treat you many different ways, choose how you will treat others, now.  Who in your sphere of influence has gone through a transition and could use a helping word or action to move forward?  Don’t let the machinations of selfish desire dictate who you will be.  Be the best of responders.  Overcome normal evil with good.

Why do I say, “Normal evil?”  Well, many times we categorize transition or change as something bad.  It is not bad.  It just is what it is.  Without transition and change, we would stay the same.  BORING!  You can always put good interpretation or bad interpretation on a situation.  You can always choose to accent the good or the bad.  Choose.

Don’t be silent.  People need to hear your voice and see you.  How wonderful it was one day, when visiting a company to have one of those from a transition run up, hug me, and say how much they missed me.  Yes, that is a grown adult response.  A face to face handshake is powerful.  A card in the mail is marvelous.  An email of concern and encouragement is powerful.  Silence communicates fear and distrust.  Make a noise.

Don’t go away after you do one thing.  How lonely you must be to only value a person when you see them in your space every day.  That is not friendship, but convenience.

How should I respond to my transitions?

Close the Book: Today, I am closing the book on one particular series of events.  I am putting it in my past.  It has taken many months of processing and consideration.  The people involved are important to me.  They are more important than any event.  Every day I have risen to the day, accepted new challenges, faced demons of disloyalty and dishonesty, and enjoyed company of compassion and concern.  Today, I bury the history and have a memorial service.  I’ll light a candle, raise a toast to blessing and health, and move on with life, love, and laughter.  Someday, you need to grieve and go on.  Don’t live in the past.

Celebrate: Today, I celebrate the freshness of friendships that encourage, support, listen, and walk alongside.  There are some great people in the world, who understand and value friendship.   There are some not so great people in the world, who only understand what they can get out of you for the moment.  Be one of the greats in the face of the not so greats.  Don’t let them get you down.  There is too much of life to enjoy.

3V Decision Criteria

Posit this!  Every action you take, every thought you make should be measured against the 3V criteria.  Validity, vitality, and veracity need to mark your reputation and the reputation of your organization or business.  Consistent failure on any of these over your history will eventually mean failure of your endeavors.  You may make money, fulfill the purpose of your non-profit, and have fun without them.  You are not successful.  You will fail or your successors will fail.

As a leader, ingrain these in your psyche.  Your personal reputation and continuance depend on them.  When others doubt you (and they will), your ability to face the mirror in the morning and be true to yourself is what will move you forward in life.   When you revel in victory, the congruence of these in the actions and intents that took you to the mountain will sweeten the taste.  When you struggle with results, the confluence of these bolsters confidence better days await.

3vsTo thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.  William Shakespeare


A valid thought or action is in the right time for the right reason.  Every venture has a sequence and a rhythm.  Today may not be the right moment to launch a new product line.  It might be a good product, but the operation is not ready to support and the customers have not been informed.

An invalid is someone struggling with a disabled portion of the balance.  An invalid action is the same.  It struggles in some measure due to imbalance.  Something is wrong with the preparation or timing or maybe the idea itself.

Be valid in your actions and thoughts.  Match the time and reason.

Leaders struggle with this concept.  Our vision for direction and purpose can overwhelm our ability to move with right time and reason.  Continual steps out of time will cause others to doubt your leadership.  Do all you can to ensure this is the right time and reason in relation to the people, progress, priorities, processes, projects, tools and technologies, and products and services. (Five Ps).

Progress and priority are factors to assess when testing for validity.  Are other factors aligned to make this work?  Has sufficient progress been made in all areas relative to support?  Is this a priority that will happen?  Is there commitment?

Be valid as a leader.


A vital thought or action is full of energy and passion and purpose.  It fulfills the destiny and design of the organization or operation.  It takes energy. (Energizers)

Leaders need energy in constant measure.  How painful is it to watch a leader with a great opportunity to implement a valid solution and yet they do not have the force of life to execute?  It happens.  We let our passion and purpose become diluted by invalid action and distress.  Don’t.  Stay on track.  Keep your energy up.

Vitality is easier when you are working with purpose and design.  It is tough to support an initiative that does not fit the purpose of an organization.  You’ve been involved in those.  They stifle creativity and stymie progress.  Some board member wants to please a friend and asks you to run in circles to help them out while critical issues lack attention.  It sucks away vitality.


A veracious thought or action is marked by integrity, ethicality, and honesty. It is true to all involved.  There is no hint of injustice, unfairness, or dishonesty.  Now this is a tough one to hit in today’s business and community environments.  It is worth all the effort you can give it.

Disconnect on this item is huge.  Hypocrisy is evident when your corporate intent is simply words on a page for marketing and recruiting.

Be the same leader at home, at work, and in the community.  Do what you do in the best interest of the other person.  “You can have anything you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” Zig Ziglar.  ““Treat men exactly as you would like them to treat you.” Jesus of Nazareth

Be direct with communication.  Be transparent.  You don’t have the latitude to dispense everything you know to everyone you know.  That is a matter of right discretion.  You do have the requirement to be authentic and considerate.

Summary:  Every leader will be judged by results.  Results will be consistently productive when you tend to validity, vitality, and veracity.

managewell3Manage Well: Eclectic Tips on Excellence 


Where do you get your energy?  Consider that question.  Consider the alternatives.  Are you being robbed of energy by concerns and consternations at work and home?  How do you replenish energy depleted by stress?  High performance requires high

Multiple times today, I’ve been asked by managers where I get my energy and how I keep my energy and have I always had energy.  While speaking at the Association of College and University Printers, the question kept being asked.  These are some great people.  So, I committed to answer.

Energy comes from fulfillment of purpose.  Give yourself to your heart passion.  If your schedule at work and home is blocking pursuit of passion and purpose, energy will drain and not come back.  Take 30 minutes a day to work on your passion.  Give yourself the energy you need.   If you can find a way to live your passion, that is going to give you the highest amount of energy.

Energy comes from right balance of work and play.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and Jill a lagging lady.  Get out and play.  Make time to do what you love to do.  Read, relax, soak in the sun, fish, golf, chess, or whatever is enjoyable. Do it.  Schedule it.

Energy comes from helping others achieve their goals.  All of us like to grow.  Most managers love to see their staff grow.  It is what we do.  It is an internal driver for a good executive and manager.  Block off a few minutes this week to help a staff member conquer a project or gain some training.

Energy comes from right people environment.  Do you have acidic people surrounding you?  Cut off the pain.  Some acidic workers cannot be cut off.  They might be your boss.  Limit your time with energy draining whiners and complainers and over controlling types.  Love yourself.

Energy comes from rest.  Get it.  Get all you need.  It will enhance productivity in all the other hours.

Energy comes from exertion.  Yes, you need to get good exercise.  Work out when needed and let energy flow in the hard moments.

Energy comes from pace.  Your job and life have a biorhythm and a pace.  Find it.  Manage it.  Respect it. When it overflows, step back and get it back on track.

Energy comes from storage.  Store it up. Don’t spend yourself out every day.  Save some for tomorrow.

Energy comes from release.  Release your thoughts.  Forgive and forget the problematic situations and people of the day and start tomorrow new.

Energy comes from spiritual connection.  Take care of your heart along with your mind and body and relationships.

Every executive and manager needs to manage their energy.  Your staff and your customers and your family and friends depend on you to have great stores of energy at right moments.

Where do I get my energy?  I love my life, my friends, my family, the business of consulting, the businesses I serve, operations and communication business, and many activities in which I chose to participate.  That is the answer, chose to participate. Choose energy over worry.  Go ahead, own the future, it belongs to you.

Manage Well – available on kindle now.

managewell3Power Principle Choices: These subjects were selected by members of teams I’ve managed as their favorite sayings learned working with me.  In a surprise session, they unveiled a 31 day flip book with key sayings they had heard from me over and over.  Apparently, they are such a part of my vernacular they decided to keep notes.  Managers are teachers.

After working with a team in one company, I met for lunch with the manager.  It had been ten years since I worked in that company.

He shyly said, “We still use the PAL method.”

I responded, “What is the PAL method?”

He then explained that I had signed every directive and procedure with my initials, PAL.  They had studied the methods behind the memos and made a system out of them.  That is an honor.  But, I reminded him they should be learning and growing and not get too bound in prior principles.  However, principles are timeless.  Look for the principles.

If it works for them, then I am honored.  If it works for them it will work for you.  There are few others I snuck in besides the 31 and a few I left out for the next book.  Enjoy

Management is a craft.  A craft is when talent is developed with training and application.  There needs to be a base talent for leading and managing on which you build knowledge and skill and mix a little artistic individual expression.  No two individuals manage exactly the same.  How boring would that be?

After years of studying, going to classes, getting degrees, learning from mentors, reading every day, teaching in conferences, counseling with mentees, and just plain doing the do, one of my frustrations is the secretive nature of leaders.  It seems they want you to drag the most important tips out of them.  Really, that is intentional.  A good leader never gives away everything.  In fact, I’m going to give away the unspoken rule of leadership that did not make it into the team member selection, because I rarely state it publicly.

“Hold wisdom close.  Only release it to anticipating learners.”

One wise wisdom steward said it this way.  “Correct a fool (someone who does not want your correction) and he will turn and shame you with it.”   Ouch!  How true.  Over time, when a leader meets this truth a few times, she becomes guarded with what she shares and with whom.

Confidence Builders

Team building returns rewards. Leaders gain ground in respect. Team members gain ground in confidence. The organization gains ground with increased results, greater capacity, and improved capability.

Boost team by intentional confidence building. Yes, you have that power. Your influence will draw confidence from the well of team member souls. At first, you may meet resentment. An unchallenged associate is an unhappy associate. Imagination and ingenuity get throttled

Robb Harperthrough pursuit of perfection on policy and procedure and process. Lax up. Give room for confidence building challenges.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” William James, Psychologist

Encourage ownership: A hard look at assignments and processes will reveal areas of evident apathy. Workers have abandoned attempts to master the routine as ownership is robbed. No one takes responsibility for areas everyone owns. Put direct lines of responsibility by assigned team member.

One shop kept loosing critical billing information during a transactional print routine. An unpredictable error was dropping out machine tracking needed for accounting. Lost billing means lost revenue and decreased profitability. An early morning worker had acumen for detailed log work. He was assigned a checkup routine to do during the runs whether he was on that machine or another. Through his ownership and attention, he isolated the technical issue, which was then resolved. He also went the extra mile and began manual log updates to ensure accurate billing during the weeks it took vendor programmers to fix the issue. That young man received a bonus and public recognition. Ownership.

Develop visible accountability: Leaders get specific. You don’t like it when the general memo comes out complaining about a frequently flubbed routine. Everyone is played down over one person’s problem. There needs to be direct and visible accountability.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor E. Frankl

Quality suffered in this shop. Finishing staff struggled with print production staff over job handoff. With 200-400 jobs a day running on-demand, there were constant slippage items. Runs were short. Runs were on the wrong stock. Runs had quality shifts from start to end. Finishing teams brought work back for reprint and the due times were missed to customer. A quick and easy scanner checkoff was established that could be tracked to exact time and who was on duty. Slippage lessened. Runs were right count. Quality shifts were resolved at the machine. All it took was having clear and visible accountability to the press operator. Team members put spring back into their step. They now loved competing to see who could do the most with least amount of reruns. Personal pride is amazing.

Require synergy: Don’t ask for synergy. Force it. Mix up work assignments to get team members together on unlikely projects. Put the large format worker in the finishing area helping for a half a day a week. Bring the finishing tech into the print production room for help regularly. Get the creative team on a folder for a few minutes. Why? The power of synergy. When 1 + 1 = 50, you find amazing results. Two finishing operators may come up with a creative solution to a problem. But a finishing operator and a creative, who designs the work and layout, may come up with a completely new product line or streamline an existing line for easier production flow. When that happens, the team energy rises to incredible confidence levels.

Summary: Build confidence in each member and the team with intentional ownership, accountability, and synergy. Stir the pot. Communicate your confidence with visible reliance and trust.

Next blog will emphasize a different feature of high performance teams. Your customers deserve it.


ROI/ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 This article focuses on the Operations level of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK


Common Grounds: Training Tenacity


Exerting your vision through your people and customers requires training. You need to train team. You need to train prospects and customers. You need to train yourself. You need to train your board. You must perform with consistency, congruency, and tenacity.  They may resist.  Do it anyway.

Train Your Team

Customer Service: A relaxed customer service is failure in the making. Many inside service team unravel at this point. Every team member must understand the vision of the service group. They must breathe it and live it. It should affect every point of decision.Plus Training

The press tech, the manager, the finishing tech, the shipping clerk, and the prepress tech must breathe customer service. This means constant training on phone skills, face-face consistency, issue handling, and prioritization to customer need. How often do decisions get made based on equipment and supplies versus customer demand? Change it. Attend to it always.

Customer Knowledge: Team need to know who they serve. Communicate personal information about the key customers. Did someone recently have a baby? Take a once in a life time trip? Accomplish a certification? Why do you restrict this knowledge to the sales and customer service teams? When your team members know the customers they serve in simple ways, they take what they do more personal and increase excellence.

Team Technical: All falls apart if the machines are not running. Machines run with good files, good process, and good people. Good people are trained. They are retrained. They are over trained.

Train Your Customer

 “Personally, I’m always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught.” Sir Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister

 Mission Criticals: Customers must be trained. Men and women around the world follow leadership into life ending battles. They grasp a purpose, attach to leadership, and thrust themselves into the oncoming firestorm. Your customers have a mission purpose. When you show them how their mission purpose connects with your service, you gain customers for life. They want to have loyal and mission attached service and will fight through budgets, purchasing departments, discretionary funds, and idiosyncrasies of their organization to work with you. Connect them. Educate them.

Linked Process: Customer process must be engaged. Discover their process and adapt yours to work with theirs. Educate them on your journey and your excellence. Take time to make them more knowledgeable on your ordering and delivering process than you are. They don’t care how you print it. They care how you interact with them at beginning and end of process. The better they understand, the easier their life becomes and the more they turn to you for service with a smile.

Train Yourself

Be the expert in your industry. Know substrates and capabilities and twenty uses for every machine.

Be the expert in your people. Learn something new every day about a team member. Surprise yourself.

Be the expert in your customers. Study their needs and demands. Know what they need before they know what they need.

Be the expert in your customers industry. Read industry articles and journals your customers read. Get outside your pocket of knowledge.

Be the expert in the mundane. Maybe the numbers don’t excite you. Maybe organization process is boring. Master the mundane. Take a college course. Go interview an executive or manager in another area of the organization and learn what they know.

Train The Board

There are executive stakeholders surrounding every decision you make. Official or unofficial, you have a stakeholder board. They may meet in a room or in the hallway. Get them trained. Keep them updated with quick, pithy mission points of accomplishment and plans. Let them be involved in your decision thinking. You may not have an official board of advisors, but you better have a list for your own reference.

Summary: This is quick and high level. Every organization must train these four and train them well. Skip one and risk failure. Tend to all and move forward.  Overcome your inertia.  Move on it.

ROI - ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 This article focuses on the Be Responsible side of the triad and Communications level of the operational pyramid.

Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: 4 As of Team: Action and Alliance

Everyone needs a good trainer.. Luke Larson, Unashamed Fitness

Find productivity improvements, lower risk and reduce expenses with 4A teams.  A good team gives bottom line results consistently and with increasing customer satisfaction.   Give managers support from the top to make this happen.  In the first article (Identify Structure) positive and negative approaches are identified.  In the second (Accountability and Adherence) the priority pair of As are outlined.  Now let’s deliver the goods.  Action and Alliance build team synergy. 

Courage and Consequence 

Action: Teams need action.   Teams need people of action.  Issues erupt.  Machines fail.  There is no greater pain than walking into a shop that is inactive for hours due to fear of action.  Costly hours have been spent with no product to show.  Somebody said he would do what she wouldn’t and nobody moved.  Inaction is death to excellence.  Dysfunctional team structure will exacerbate inaction.  Courage and consequence stirs action mode team.

Free action requires empowerment.  Right process and policy and procedure give each team member clear expectations and parameters for decisions to achieve organization objectives.  If staff needs to consult a manager more than once a week, empowerment is weak. 

Alliance: Build key alliances with vendors, suppliers, departments, team members, and customers.  Alliances require maintenance.  Build trust and tenacity.  Never assume loyalty.  Strengthen understanding and alliance with allowance for mistakes.  High accountability affords grace for mistakes.  Do not allow ignorance of the needs of partners and stakeholders.

Check Up on Action and Alliance:

Plus Checks: When team members are proactive are they given immediate and specific feedback?  Is proactive approach on every personnel review?  Do leadership team meetings include kudos for proactive solutions attributed to team members?  Is there an active and up-to-date list of alliance vendors, suppliers, and customers published to the leadership group with assigned action quarterly for communication?  Do you have fun events with partners and stakeholders?  Do alliances know your strategic objectives for the next 18 months?

Minus Checks: Are team members ignorant of business impact of product and services on the end customer of your customer?  Is a clear customer communication process of risk of missing due times integrated into every team member’s expectations?  Do team members hesitate to make decisions when management is out of office?

Transition Approaches for Each Dysfunction to Courage and Consequence:

Command and Control: Establish “do then report” into a few key activities.  Review your process flow for steering points where decisions can branch to failure and embed a manager call out into the routine.  Over time reduce these points with coaching.

Laissez Faire: Explain the business impact of the end customer of the customer to all team members.  Make this a part of your management communiqués and public interaction.  Establish “down line impact” mentality.  Help each person see the impact of their action on the next person in the process stream.

Helicopter Micro Management: Back off.  Get out of the way.  Identify where you need proactive small steps and find ways to compliment.  Focus on progress toward the end goal instead of the end goal.  Read a book on positive reinforcement theory and adjust your attitude.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Staff Rules: Establish clear vision, mission, and 18 month objectives.  Communicate, communicate, and communicate.  Establish buy-in.  Don’t do this quickly.  Lock yourself out and get a vision, plan, and timeline in your heart and mind. Discuss with the key influencers of the team. Establish lost leadership.  Bring firm vision for their discussion.

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves. Viktor E. Frankl

Summary: Action and alliance build a synergistic environment. Big progress is made.  Team finds solutions to long term issues on their own. Plaguing process glitches go away.  Responsible behavior now is the norm.  Joy takes over.  Move into 4 As Team.  Do it.


ROI - ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.


This article focuses on the Be Responsible triad of the operational pyramid.


Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: 4 As of Team: Accountability and Adherence

At times, each is solely accountable

Identification of the most common team structure (See Prior Article) allows you to define the beginning steps toward the productive and pleasant work environment you desire. It won’t be easy. Shop mentalities build over time. They don’t change overnight. They don’t change without strong resistance. Resistance is not a bad item. It just is. Change is painful. Who wants pain? You do. You must change to reach the place of pleasant productivity you crave. There is a freedom in a productive team that makes life enjoyable.

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Courage and Consequence

Courage and Consequence: This is the team you want. Empowered staff makes good decisions, takes good action, thinks good thoughts, embraces excellence in operations, and follows right process and procedure and policy. Wow? Who is in charge of this utopia? You are. Vision, mission, and plans guide accomplishment of key organizational objectives.  It is achievable, enjoyable, and realistic.

Accountability: Absent in many teams is fair accountability. Sure, you might have erratic accountability or skewed accountability, but do you have fair accountability? Fair accountability includes up-to-date job descriptions with room for growth. Fair accountability includes up-to-date shop policy and procedure and processes with identified measurements of success at low, medium and high levels.  Fair accountability includes allowances for exceptions with appropriate discretionary latitude at the lowest point of decision making. Fair accountability includes identifiable career path.

Adherence: Alongside accountability is adherence to policy and procedure. When the accountability lies outside the individual team member for her actions you find shop standards slipping, waste unacceptable, and constant angst with little improvement. Why adhere to procedure if no one cares or checks equitably? You need firm adherence to clear and communicated process, policy, and procedure to run alongside accountability.

Check Up on Accountability:

Plus Checks: Are all key shop processes identified and process owners acknowledged and empowered? Are all procedures up-to-date with present software, equipment, and expected people skills? Is there a skills inventory and signoff by responsible staff for each process for which they are responsible? Do you have a training plan for each member of the team for cross training and extra support?

Minus Checks: Are staff members allowed to continually bypass procedures during “hot” jobs? Do you have known team members who are incompetent in some assigned duties required for their role? Are some team members constantly covering for others?

Transition Approaches for Each Dysfunction to Courage and Consequence:

Command and Control: Begin with a process inventory. Identify team members who will be owners of each process. Require delegation with increasing levels of responsibility for procedures and policies. This will start the communication to the entire team that you are serious.

Laissez Faire: Begin with procedures. Identify consequences to customers of not following the flow. Managers communicate to the team the impact on customers in a matter of fact manner. Begin to win their hearts to service.

Helicopter Micro Management: Begin with results reports for feedback. Pull back the micro manger one key result at a time. Implement 10-2-4 checks against reasonable expectations that are results oriented not operation oriented. Make sure your customers get good work while decreasing over site of mundane tasks.

                Staff Rules: When coming from Staff Rules begin with procedures created by the staff. Don’t rob them of power. Focus their energy. Identify process owners who are final signoff on procedures in their areas. Delegate clearly and communicate changes to the entire team in person where possible and by email only in emergencies.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. Mahatma Gandhi

Fear Factors: Moving into accountability and adherence in a shop increases fear. The prior system is predictable. People fear losing predictability. They greatly fear being held accountable until they experience living with it and receiving results. Fear can result in many types of resistance. “No one ever told me.” “Who made that decision?” “That’s not what I read.” “______ is responsible.” “That’s not the job I was hired to do.” As an executive, director, or manager, you have to provide clear, communicated, and consistent response to these reactions to slowly eliminate fear. It will rise. You need to manage the fear without retreat.


ROI/ROECOMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.


This article focuses on the Be Responsible triad of the operational pyramid.


Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: 4 As of Team: Identify Structure

Twin Bridges

Teamwork is not simple and not common. A well functioning team is powerful and poised for growth. Why do you allow areas of your company to operate with dysfunction? Do you realize the power of synergy you lose? Great teams have accountability, adherence, action, and alliance knit into performance and decisions. To adopt the Four As of Team identify where you are.  Executives must lead.

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today

Command and Controlwere the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.  Steve Jobs

Command and Control: This can be good practice in crisis and creation. But, it does not resemble team. A command and control structure with hierarchical dictates allows for quick obedience. It also promotes mindless action. You had better be ready to lose thoughtful workers. This is great in a battlefield of well defined parameters. It is death when you need mental acuity and engaged creativity.

Laissez Faire: Apathetic management will render apathetic results. How often have you found a manager so afraid of making mistakes that decisions linger? Indecision runs rampant and results wander further off target over time. Many times this is symptomatic of Command and Control structure in the higher hierarchy. Managers freeze because they know every decision is really made in an upper level and they have no authority, just responsibility. And that is a disease, not a management practice. Team? Not on your life. Everyone lives for himself. Finger pointing and blame shifting become survival necessities.

Helicopter Micro Management: Wow. This one is painful for every worker. Authority to make decisions may be released, but any small mistake is noted and put into the brown stamp book for later redemption. This environment breeds anger. Rewards are rare except to the micro manager, who redeems all the good points for her own benefit. There might be a team of workers gelled to mutinous intent. This is common in highly political organizations.

Staff Rules: This dysfunctional team approach is gaining ground in many organizations. Executives, directors, and managers are afraid of the employees. What if they don’t like me and my vision? What if they go somewhere else? What if they file a complaint with HR? What if, what if, and what if cause managers to check in with employees on every decision. This is entitlement mentality and will lower and lower productivity to the level of the most charismatic laggard in the shop. The danger is that managers believe this will improve morale. The exact opposite is true. People thrive on leadership that is decisive, non-political, visionary, supportive, and fair. It is not fair to allow the least productive the same reward as the most productive in a free market economy. The dichotomy of this approach is that executives begin making hidden decisions because it is impossible to please everyone. So really, you are living in Command and Control with a ruse of inclusion.

Courage and Consequence: The best team structure rewards both courage and consequence. There is a reward system for the over achievers.  There is a consequence system for the under achievers. It may not be money. It may be getting more training or being included on key work teams or allowance for a flexible schedule or whatever works for the producer. Isn’t that going to be interpreted as “teacher’s pet” activity? Sure. Deal with it. That is the courage part. Courage starts with the executive and director.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.  C. S. Lewis

Summary: Identify your team. Where are you? How did you get there? Is it where you want it? In next week’s article I address the As of accountability and adherence that make powerful and productive team. You cannot afford to lag in the first four structures. Neither can you change overnight. I’ll give you solid tips on making transitions built over time and tension and triumph.

COMMON GROUNDS: These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and 

ROI/ROEconcerns of real managers doing what needs done. Executives gain insight.

 This article focuses on the Be Responsible triad of the operational pyramid.


Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK

Common Grounds: The Fearful and The Brave

fearfulandbraveairshipPursuing growth takes courage. Often, it means a paradigm shift. The brave take bold steps. Every executive, director and manger come to moments of decision. Some require bravery. Some require casting off fear. A brave decision maker in any business or organization must know three things.

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving – we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it – but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

Where are you going? Columbus was a brave soul. He cast off the shore of mediocrity and embarked into an historical trip. His bravery took him and his team into uncharted waters. As a decision maker for one or multiple companies or organizations, you need to do the same.

Uncharted Waters

  • Where is the industry? You need to know. What is growing and what is lagging? How will that affect your clients and prospects? What do you need to learn to move forward? What do you need to jettison to keep alive? Be bold.
  • Where is your niche? Is it growing? Is it growing in volume, complexity, confluence with related service and product, or number of potential clients? Is it shrinking? Do you need to make a bold strike to hold market share or to improve market position? Be bold.
  • Where is your risk? Can your team keep up the pace? Are they learning at a fast enough rate? Is your equipment and software and marketing set where it needs to be? What is your competition doing to put you out of business? Are you poised to meet the challenges? Be bold.

Who is going with me? All of us need to sort through good and not-so-good clients.

  • Some clients are dragging bottom. They are anchors on a sailing ship. Every Friday at 2pm they bring impossible requests and frustrate your team on their way to anticipated family time. They call your top sales members in the evening when they would rather be watching a child’s soccer game. Specs are never ready and cost you more dollars to develop with them than the profit on the order. Inventory your clients. Can you contain the anchors so they don’t damage progress for everyone? Is there a way to manage them and keep the ship running across the ocean at high speed? Be brave.
  • Some clients bring valued cargo into the hold. Every order is ready to go, priorities are understood, expectations are in line with your capabilities. You love to meet these folks for lunch and talk about the victories. Profit margins are ample because speed of trust enables lean operation on the orders. Payments or allocations are handled posthaste and receivables look wonderful to your accounting. Be brave.
  • Some clients sharpen your saw. No one shaves off fear quicker than these clients. No one creates fear faster than these clients. Every month, they have a new idea that challenges your team to move faster, brighter, and with more creativity. You love them and hate them. You would never grow without them for they point out the future of the industry. Just when you are comfortable at present product and delivery cycles, this client pushes you to higher productivity and variety. They don’t bring an order, they bring ten orders on the same day that utilized 90% of your team’s capability. They make you shine. Be brave.

What will we find when we get there?

Contentment lies not in quality or rest, but confidence that what we have done and where we have gone is the right journey. Decision makers pursue contentment not satisfaction. There is a constant dissatisfaction with status quo that drives the bold to stay bold and the brave to be more courageous. Are you dissatisfied enough to be bold?

Summary: Fear stifles and strangles. Bravery shifts and shapes. Take inventory on your plans to ensure they break the boundaries of fear and launch you into the future. You own the future.  Surrounded by fearful managers looking for the safe route home?  Take the lead. Be one of the brave.

 These tidbits come out of daily consternations, comments, and concerns of real managers doing what you do.

 This article focuses the BE FOCUSED  vision line of the operational pyramid.


Let’s talk: Phil Larson or Shepherd Consulting OK