VOLUME TWO, ISSUE 11

3 Human Elements 

By the time you read this, the elections will be over. The hundreds of political signs that blighted our communities will be trash. No more mailboxes stuffed with political pitches. Gone is the urge to hit the "mute" button every time a noxious political ad pops up in the middle of "Grey's Anatomy". If you're like most people, you're glad it's over. I'm not na´ve. Mudslinging in politics is nothing new. Opponents took shots at Lincoln over his appearance, accused Grover Cleveland of fathering an illegitimate child (some stuff never changes, does it?) and political cartoons were all the rage. Puck, a political satire magazine founded in 1877, carried one especially scathing cartoon attacking the collusion of business and government, showing U.S. Senators dressed as courtesans. The difference today, of course, is access. We have the opportunity to be bombarded 24/7 with political propaganda. Some may argue that having access to more information should lead to more informed choices but I think it's just the opposite. There' so much coming at us - we don't know how to begin to separate fact from fiction. We end up voting a straight party line (opting for ideology over ideas) or let ourselves be swayed by slick slam ads produced by people who sell themselves to the highest bidder.


The way we practice politics often frustrates me - this year, it made me angry. But being angry isn't being I tried to apply the three core essentials of BoldWork to my job as a voter. Here's what I experienced:


Purpose: Ultimately, my purpose was to make my vote count - to ensure that I voted in a way that I thought was best for my community and my country...regardless of party affiliation.


Excellence: If voting was my job, I needed to do it to the best of my ability. That meant going beyond the 24/7 political "feed" and doing my own research into candidates and issues. I looked at voting records, when available. I checked out campaign finance filings with our state ethics committee. (Remember Watergate and Deep Throat's advice to follow the money?) I read interviews with candidates and went to see them speak when I could. I read things they'd written. I read the complete texts of proposed amendments and propositions and checked out the folks who created them.


Accountability: Ultimately, I held myself accountable for being an informed voter. And I kept it top of mind that the outcome of any election impacts us all.


Not everyone I supported was elected. (Many were.) And I still scratch my head in amazement at some of the people who were swept into office. But gathering knowledge re-energized me for the process. And leading up to the election, I had an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with people who held opinions different from mine. Out of those discussions came solutions to two community issues. That outcome reinforced my belief that we can get the government we long as we believe we deserve the best and are willing to work, individually and collectively, towards it.


Jennie Ayers
Senior Partner, Challenge It Now  

In This Issue
Doing BoldWork When You Hate Your Job
BoldWork in Action
The Mother of All Secret Squirrels!
Join Our Mailing List!
Quick Links
collaboration cubes
The F-Words That Rule Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is ruled by two very powerful f-words: "food" and "football". Nearly as old as the sport itself, the tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving began in 1876, when the newly formed American Intercollegiate Football Association held its first championship game. Less than a decade later, more than 5000 club, college and high school football teams held games on Thanksgiving. Match-ups between Princeton and Yale kept more than 40,000 fans from sitting around their dining tables. The first NFL game held on Thanksgiving was in 1934, when the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears squared off. The Lions have played on Thanksgiving ever since - except when the team was called away to serve during World War II.

So go ahead - indulge in food and football with family and friends.

happy thanksgiving turkey

From Time Magazine
"Doing BoldWork When You Hate your Job" by Jennie Ayers

(570 words- estimated reading time: less than 3 minutes)

A recent coaching client confessed, "I hate my job." My client's not alone. According to the latest Deloitte Shift Index survey, 80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs. And that dissatisfaction goes beyond "the [current] business cycle or one grumpy generation". I can relate. I love what I do now...but that wasn't always the case. I remember being bored out of my mind in college when I had a job counting malaria cells on those little glass slides. And just as I was starting my writing career, the Writers Guild went on strike. To keep a roof over my head, I took a job selling production music with Capitol Records. A natural sales person I'm not.


Asking people to do BoldWork in the face of such discontent is challenging. But even if you're among the 80% of people who don't like their jobs, using BoldWork's three point foundation - purpose, excellence and accountability - can help you move beyond that discontent.


toothbrush-tpInfluencing Your Feelings of Dissatisfaction

Until we know why we hate something, it's impossible to put together a plan to fix it. As it turns out, we're pretty resilient to negative situations when we feel like we can impact them. So make it your purpose to pinpoint exactly what it is you dislike about your current job.


Can't Fix What's Broken?

What if the thing you hate about your job is something you can't location, location, location? You have a nasty commute or had to take a job out of state, leaving your family behind because the house won't sell. Now what?


Keep Your Saw Sharp!

First, choose to see your current job situation as temporary, as a launching pad for your next position. And then turn your purpose to learning everything you can before you move on. Building character and acquiring skills doesn't just happen - it takes intentional practice where character and skills are often forged in the crucible of difficult or unpleasant circumstances.


Don't Forget to Feed Yourself

Hating what we do often leads us to do less of it. We might take a longer lunch or an extra break, make more personal calls or take off early. As a result, our work performance suffers, which in turn leaves us feeling less competent. When we perceive ourselves as less competent, our feelings of discontent about our job increase. Talk about a rapidly descending downward spiral! There are ways to crawl out of the abyss. Retaining one's own personal standards of excellence in spite of hating a job not only feeds our self-esteem - it also impacts future opportunities.


It's Always about the Bigger Picture

So how did I manage to do BoldWork while selling production music? Sometimes the composers and musicians who created the music would stop by. Those visits reminded me that they depended on me to help them get their music to the public and therefore make a living. When I kept that in focus, it made it easier to make those cold calls. I was accountable! Besides self, who are you accountable to? Your co-workers? Your customers? Your company? When we remind ourselves that the work we do and how we do it can make a difference, it goes a long way towards making us feel better about the job.


If you woke up this morning, thinking "I hate my job", give these suggestions a try. Just think what you have to gain.


"BoldWork in Action" by Janice Criddle
(405 words - estimated reading time: less than 2 minutes)

For 69 days, the world watched a Chilean mountain and waited to discover the fate of a group of men trapped 2300 feet below the surface in a Chilean mine. We breathed a collective sigh of relief when the last man, Luis Urzua, emerged safely. I believe the miners owe their lives to him and his leadership skills.

luis urzua
Luis Urzua
After the cave-in, where all odds appeared to be against them, Urzua took the reins of leadership. With strict rationing, he was able to stretch a 48 hour supply of emergency food for 17 days until more food arrived via a small hole drilled by the rescuers. He managed 32 diverse and distressed personalities. He organized the dark, frightening space into productive work areas, including a makeshift gym and sleeping quarters. Using the headlights of a truck to simulate daylight, Urzua kept the men on a regular schedule. Once direct communication was established, he became the liaison between the miners and the surface where the whole world watched.

I can only speculate what was going on in Luis Urzua's heart and mind during this ordeal. First, I suspect a positive relationship between him and his team had been well established prior to this crisis. (How's your relationship with your team?) From the reports circulated by the media, Urzua is a man deeply respected for his leadership skills, as evidenced by this team's effectiveness in the face of amazing adversity. Second, I think Luis Urzua's BoldWork principles kicked in big time.
  • Purpose - I know survival was a big part of this entire crisis. However, I suspect there was something more at play. In his book, "Man's Search for Meaning," Victor Frankl observed that the ultimate survivors of the Nazi concentration camps were the people who focused on a purpose. I suspect Urzua's purpose was to keep his team safe, alive and to get them home to their families.
  • Excellence - Urzua made sure everything was done right. If the men were to survive, there could be no missteps - not during the long wait or during the actual harrowing rescue process.
  • Accountability - Luis Urzua was the last man out. Need I say more?!

Most of us won't ever be put to the extreme test that this group of miners faced. However, whether we are experiencing the daily challenges of our work or an unexpected crisis, we all have opportunities to do BoldWork. I'd love to hear about examples of BoldWork in action in your life.

"Performance Review: The Mother of All Secret Squirrels" by Rebecca Ripley

(607 words - estimated reading time: less than 3 minutes)

So how do we define a Sacred Squirrel? From our perspective, it's any practice, policy, eccentricity, pet project, obsolete procedure or function that has historically been widely recognized as protected by a person of influence and is therefore immune to criticism - even when most people admit this "Squirrel" is counter to logic, intelligence, productivity, rational business sense and progress.


One of the biggest, fattest squirrels in any organization is the performance review, so why not start here?  It's the mother of all that is sacred - in spite of the fact that most people hate them, find them a huge waste of time, and believe they demoralize far more often than they inspire.  Twenty years ago, a dear friend and colleague (Tana Suter) and I presented a program called Root Canals or Performance Reviews: Which Do Your Managers Prefer?  Root canals were the "tongue in cheek" winner!


Performance Review Time

In 1950, W. Edward Deming said, "Don't do annual performance reviews.  They just make people feel bad."  And Richard Karpinski said in a blog response, "Deming's point was that the stick induces fear and the carrot focuses on the reward instead of the job.  What we really want is engagement in the work, pride in doing a great job, and offering a service or product that will please our customers."  Sounds like many of the components of BoldWork to me!


When I conducted an internet search, I was stunned by the number of articles and blogs and vehement responses to blogs bemoaning the beleaguered performance review.  Headlines ranged from Eliminate Reviews to Why You're Doing Performance Reviews All Wrong.  In Esther Derby's July 12, 2010 blog, she references an NPR interview with UCLA business Professor Samuel Culbert who said, "Employee performance reviews should be eliminated.  Why?  First, they're dishonest and fraudulent. And second, they're just plain bad management." In Culbert's book, Get Rid of the Performance Review, he says, "This corporate sham is one of the most insidious, most damaging, and yet most ubiquitous of corporate activities. Everybody does it, and almost everyone who's evaluated hates it. It's a pretentious, bogus practice that produces absolutely nothing that any thinking executive should call a corporate plus.  How could something so obviously destructive, so universally despised, continue to plague our workplaces?"


If ever there were a worthy description of a Sacred Squirrel, this would be it.  Some might argue that performance reviews survive because we don't have anything better.  Others might say it's because they're HR and executive-driven, and both HR and executives are blind to the damage caused by reviews.


As a former HR professional, I've said for years that the only compelling reason to conduct performance reviews is that employees are guaranteed to have at least one focused, face-to-face conversation with their manager every year.  For the time and angst they cause, that's not a good enough reason - especially when they're done poorly.  If managers want to get quality performance from their employees, they need to build trusting relationships with them.  That's not a once-a-year process; it's a year-round endeavor. 


The bottom line is that while most of us enjoy positive feedback, it doesn't improve performance.  Human beings are internally driven to do the best we can.  Leaders who create a WorkClimate where roles and responsibilities are clear, standards for excellence are attainable, and personal accountability is high will have self-motivated team members who achieve outstanding results - and they won't need a performance review form to do it.


If we've hit a nerve with this column, please send us your response - or if you'd like to recommend another Sacred Squirrel that needs slaying, we're all ears.  Write to me at


3 Human Elements
Challenge It Now focuses its energies on a common goal - through consultation, coaching and facilitation, we help professionals in business organizations create and sustain a workplace climate where the positive experience of work is optimized, engagement is enriched and performance potential is maximized.
Please take a moment and visit our website at to find out more about us and what we have to offer. Or contact us for additional information at: 818.585.9553 or 818.429.0077 or 443.838.4327.