Strategy Performance Change 

Business Advisors Network


2011 / no.1

In This Issue
The Productivity Sinkholes
What Keeps You Up at Night?
When Leadership from the Top is Missing
In January we launched a bi-weekly radio program, Strategies for Change,  that gives us the opportunity to explore in conversation some of the topics we have been writing about here.  The intent is primarily to build a library of brief (30 min.) audio segments to help leaders find more effective ways to lead their businesses or organizations, and better understand how to create rapid performance improvements.
Click here to go to our webpage where you can listen to the archived episodes and see the upcoming schedule.  Please to anyone who may be interested in getting more familiar with these topics and our approach.
We are discovering that the episodes have in a short time become popular and at the time of writing we have over 1600 listeners.  We hope it is a sign that the information is helpful.
Let us know what you think.


Alain Bolea


The Productivity Sinkholes:

Confusion, Distrust and Fear of Mistakes.

Confronted with more to do and fewer resources, leaders often express disappointment at their staff's lack of initiative.  As frustration grows, leaders tend to compensate by being more involved in the day-to-day and giving more directives.  As employees sense their bosses' distrust, they shy away from taking initiative out of fear of making mistakes and disapproval.  Productivity begins to spiral downward.
One contributing factor is that leaders see the world from a vantage point that others do not have.  Employees cannot see as clearly how parts of the organization fit together and they need the opportunity to consider the ins and outs of the organization as a system.
The other factor is that leaders find it is more expedient to do things themselves, rather than lead others into doing a better job.  The result is that things never get fundamentally better and are more likely to get worse.
Reversing this trend is actually simpler than it seems but requires some time investment, and here is the rub: leaders are always short on time.  We see over and over how dysfunctional situations go on for months, sometimes years, when leaders  do not make the time to break the cycle.
Conducting an open staff meeting around productivity problems can feel like opening Pandora's Box.  Yet the goal is simple: everyone on the team needs to gain the same bird's eye view of the system they are a part of.  All need to understand for themselves what the group stands for, what value they intend to deliver, and how they work together within the context of outside pressures and opportunities.  When this alignment of perspectives happens, productivity takes off again.
From a greater collective clarity comes better idea generation, more open discussions, better understanding of the need for cooperation and communications, more individual engagement into the outcomes and better implementation.
The time previously spent figuring out the safe next step is now reallocated to productive activities.  This is where the jump in productivity comes from.  Time is used differently.
Alain Bolea
What Keeps You Up at Night?
Help us stay current with your concerns.


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When Leadership

From the Top is Missing

We frequently work with teams that are given as only marching orders to dramatically reinvent their mission.  From a distance this challenge could seem appealing but, in practice, teams typically react with high stress and pull back from giving the task their all.  As a result they fall far short of their potential to deliver.


Anxiety is pervasive when responsibility lands on people without a formal discussion and clear performance standards.  The real possibility of failure or incompetence looms especially large just when teams need to be highly creative and take new risks.  Team leaders often react by pressing hard, steam-rolling past any limiting concern; team members then begin to hold back rather than speak their minds.  Soon productivity grinds down considerably.


One such team recently found itself bogged down: repeating old stories of their problems, complaining at not getting enough direction, cutting off each other's comments in frustration.  We helped the team leader recognize he had to shift the mood. Doing so, they eventually came to grips with the fact they were not dealing with their individual concerns as a team.


When concerns were openly aired and respected as legitimate, rather than diminished or disallowed as too uncomfortable or inappropriate to deal with, the team moved on because mutual trust was raised.  People felt able now to say what really works and what doesn't.  From here, possibilities emerged quickly because energy was no longer drained by fears and concerns.


An immediate and dramatic shift then occurred in the group interaction: piggy-backing on each other's ideas, quickly sorting out unrealistic ideas without team members feeling slighted, raising numerous options - all done so much faster.


When leadership from the top is missing,  task 1 is to develop higher trust and collaboration as the necessary foundations for the team to take initiative quickly and effectively.


Scott Brumburgh



Upcoming Episodes
Strategies for Change
In the upcoming episodes we will discuss in greater depth some of the topics covered in this newsletter.  Join us on:

March 12 11am EST
March 23 12pm EST

Send in your questions here