7 Steps Ahead, LLC

Organizational Psychology for Managers
sold out at Amazon.com two days after it was released! Fortunately, more copies are now available. Click here to order. For excerpts, click here. To read a review of the book, click here.

What are some of the benefits of applying organizational psychology to your business? Find out in this radio interview!

What happens when a leader won't play well with others?

Is that really such a bargain?

Do you understand your company's personality?

Are you hearing the hoof beats of the four horsemen of business failure?

How can you make sure you're in the right place at the right time?

When is efficiency ruining your productivity?

What does it take for a team to consistently use its strengths instead of its weaknesses?

Just how different are leaders and managers really?

Despite the old claim about frogs sitting in water until it boils, they actually are smart enough to jump out. Why don't people do the same?

Why is it so hard to deal with Jerks in the office?

Here's what Bank of America has to say about how leaders impact high performance teams.

What can you do when you feel you don't fit into a new organizational culture?

If you want a motivated workforce, check out this article from Fox Business.

Learn the secrets of Mastering Your Schedule on Time Tamer Talk Radio.

"The 36-Hour Course in Organizational Development" was listed by Amazon.com as one of the top 100 books on organizational behavior.



Publications and Announcements

Click here for the full list of publications

How Different Are Leaders and Managers?
in Corp! Magazine

Are You Speaking to Me?
in Corp! Magazine

When the Solution is the Problem
in Corp! Magazine

The Paradox of Perfection
American Business Magazine

Flawed Execution? Don't Lose Your Head Over It
in Corp! Magazine

The Destroyer of Cultures
at ERE.Net

Help Star Performers Ramp Up The Whole Team
in Corp! Magazine

The Secret to Productive Staff Meetings   

in Medical Office Today 

 Don't Let Dracula Decisions Roam Your Business  

in Corp! Magazine 

The Blame of Phobos Grunt  

in Corp! Magazine 


 The Four Horsemen of Business Failure  

in MeasureIT

Of Cats and Unwanted Prizes 

in Corp! Magazine

Who Betrays One Master 

in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership


My Hovercraft is Full of Eels
in Corp! Magazine


Using the Force: What Every Exec Can Learn From Darth Vader
in the Worcester Business Journal

"Balance the Individual and the Team for Top Performance"
in Corp! Magazine

"Real Science Fiction"
in Corp! Magazine

"Shaky Ground"
in Lab Manager Magazine

Zen and the Art of Leadership
Talk presented at Infotec 2010

Recent Interviews

Do you understand your company's personality?
in ComputerWorld

Tell About Mistakes and Failed Projects
in Investors Business Daily

A Bad Work Environment Can Make You Sick
on CareerBliss

How Much Does Motivation Matter? 

  in CSI International


Profiting from Your Performance Review  

in NASDAQ Careers News


 Motivating Small Business Employees to Work As Hard As You  

in the Phonebooth


 Relax at Work? Ha! 

in the Jewish Exponent


The Mobility Morass  

in Specialty Fabrics Review


HR Mistake of the Week: Why Hiring for Emotional Intelligence Gets You a BFF Instead of a Star Employee
in The Grindstone

Using Games to Build Your Team
on the Talking Work Podcast

How to Use Sports to Advance Leadership and Organizational Development
on the Full Potential Show with James Rick

Hiring Mistakes
with Todd Raphael,
Editor, Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership

Organizational Development on
The David Lush Show, WNIX 1330 AM

Innovation and Corporate Culture
on KKZZ Brainstormin' with Bill Frank

The Startup Business Coach

The CEO and Organizational Development


How to Motivate Your Employees
on Fox Business

Komen Reverses Planned Parenthood Move
in The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Art of Branding Your Career 

in Psychology Today

Prepping for Your Annual Review

in the NY Times


Making Pay Decisions Transparent 

in Human Resource Executive


Don't Like Your Job? Define One You Like 

in IT World


Computer Measurement Group Announces Keynote and Plenary Speakers for CMG'11 Taking Place December 5-9, 2011 at Gaylord National Hotel in D.C. Area  


 Career Focus: Engineering Management in Today's Engineer, a publication of the IEEE



4 Ways to Log Off on Time Off 


 About Creating Visions and Organizational Goals 


Researchers Find 'The Paradox of Meritocracy' 

in Human Resource Executive 


Game Changer 

in SHRM India


How to Stay Motivated on the Road to ITIL Expert  

in ITSM Watch


To Be a Leader, You Must Be a Follower 

in Oregon Business


 Incentivizing Employees
in Advance for Medical Laboratory Professionals

Tips for Making, Keeping Business Resolutions
at Fox Small Business

The Evolution of Leadership

Getting Results: Performance vs. Putting in the Hours

How to Self-Promote Without Being Obnoxious
on CNN

Hiring Headaches
in the IndUS Business Journal

Identifying Your Future Leaders
in IndustryWeek Magazine

Natural Born Project Managers: Myth or Reality at Project Manager Planet


How to Survive a Bad Team Leader
at Yahoo! Careers

Books and CDs

Contact Us

 The Illusion of Control


While attending a 4H fair with my family, I had the opportunity to watch an owl show. Harry Potter aside, owls are not exactly the best of pets. Owls, even small ones, are birds of prey. The trainer commented at one point that the owl he was holding was biting his thumb with around 200 pounds of pressure, quite painful even through the thick leather gloves he was wearing!


What was particularly interesting was watching just how little the trainer actually did. It often seemed as though the less he did, the greater his control over the birds. Speaking with him afterward, I found that this was, indeed, the case. If he tries to force the bird to do anything, the bird expresses its opinion in an unmistakable fashion, generally involving three inch long razor sharp talons. Listening to his explanation, I was reminded of jujitsu training: beginners seek to control their partners through brute force and the application of painful techniques. The more force the beginner applies, the more their partner instinctively resists. When the beginner manages a successful throw, both partners are left sweaty and gasping for breath.


By comparison, when the master executes the same technique, she often seems to barely touch her partner. The partner punches, and almost magically flies through the air. Where the beginner struggles for control, the master effortlessly leads their partner around and around until directing them into the floor, the wall, or another attacker. The only benefit the beginner gets is that they don't need to go out running or lifting weights in order to get a good workout!


Like the trainer and the owls, the more force the beginner applies, the less control they actually have. Conversely, the less force the master applies, the more control they actually have. Much of jujitsu training is learning to overcome that almost instinctive response to use increasing amounts of force to overcome opposition and learn to apply technique instead.


What is particularly interesting in considering these examples is that owls and people react the same way to attempts to compel them to act in a certain way. Even in a friendly training environment, the use of force causes someone who wants to cooperate to fight instead.


The same thing happens in business: far too often, I've seen people transformed from enthusiastic and motivated to oppositional and unmotivated by managers who felt a need to focus on the consequences of "not measuring up," instead of building on the excitement and then getting out of the way.


At one large computer hardware company, a certain VP of Engineering kept complaining that his department refused to step up. The less they did, the more draconian he became; the more draconian he became, the less they did. This could have ended very badly, with people quitting or being fired, neither of which would have been good for the company's product cycle. Both the VP and the department needed help learning to stop fighting with one another. Helping them rebuild trust wasn't easy, and it required the VP to have faith that his department would perform if he just gave them the chance. Instead of threats and sanctions, he had to learn to think, and communicate, strategically: instead of focusing on the consequences of failure, he enabled the department to see how their contributions fit into the long-term strategic goals of the company.


The department, on the other hand, needed to be brought to the point where they were willing to give the VP another chance. This, too, was not easy, as the habits of conflict had started to set in and several senior employees were already starting to hunt for new jobs. Fortunately, it was possible to reframe the conflict to the point where the department was willing to listen to what the VP had to say, and have faith that he really meant it.

The more the VP was able to stop trying to control his department, the more productive they became. The more the members of the department were able to accept that his attempts a over-control were mistakes, the more they were able to give him feedback in ways that didn't threaten his authority. The net result was that performance increased sharply, product quality improved, and customers took notice. This led to a substantial revenue increase for the company.


Letting go of control is not easy: all too often it feels unnatural or premature. When our own reputation or job is on the line, it is even harder to not attempt to control every detail and every person. The more control we attempt, the less effective it is; paradoxically, though, this only convinces us to attempt to impose ever greater levels of control. When dealing with owls, you get very rapid feedback when you're attempting too much control. It's a bit less obvious in jujitsu, and hence harder to break the cycle. The most skilled jujitsu masters can throw an opponent often without touching him, but it takes a leap of faith to abandon the use of force and develop that level of skill. The business environment is, fundamentally, no different.


What's stopping you?



 Contact me to find out how to dramatically improve performance in your organization.  


Stephen R Balzac

About 7 Steps Ahead 
Stephen R. Balzac, "The Business Sensei," is a consultant, author, professional speaker, and president of 7 Steps Ahead, specializing in helping businesses get unstuck and transform problems into opportunities.

Steve has over twenty years of experience in the high tech industry and is the former Director of Operations for Silicon Genetics, in Redwood City, CA.

Steve is the author of The 36-Hour Course on Organizational Development, published by McGraw-Hill and a contributing author to Ethics and Game Design: Teaching Values Through Play. Steve's latest book, "Organizational Psychology for Managers," was released by Springer in the fall of 2013. He writes the monthly business column, "Balzac on Business."

He is the president of the Society of Professional Consultants (SPC) and served as a member of the board of the New England Society for Applied Psychology. No stranger to the challenges of achieving peak performance under competitive and stressful conditions, he holds a fifth degree black belt in jujitsu and is a former nationally ranked competitive fencer.