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.

How big do you have to get before growth becomes difficult? 

How can duck and cover save your business?

Goals are great... until they're not!

What is a key characteristic of a great leader?

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?

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 Leadership Blueprint

High Performance Cycle
High Performance Cycle
Mediocre leaders are born. Great leaders are made.
  • Do you have leaders who are good, but have not made the jump to great?
  • Do you have great leaders who could be fantastic?
  • Would you like to dramatically increase team performance in your business?
  • Are your teams revisiting decisions you thought were settled?
  • When you ask a question, is silence the most common reply?
  • Is your business expanding more rapidly than your pool of potential leaders?
  • Are you seeing less teamwork and more silos?
  • Do you dread giving performance reviews?

Do you want to change one or more of the above? 


The Leadership Blueprint is the result of years of research and empirical observation into effective leadership, leadership development, and high performance. The goal is to provide organizations with a reliable tool for developing the leadership skill they need to be successful. The science behind it is discussed at length in Organizational Psychology for Managers


To find out how the Leadership Blueprint can help you, email me at steve@7stepsahead.com or call 978-298-5189.






Yahoo's Pfizer Problem 


What is Yahoo's Pfizer problem? That may seem a bit of an odd question: Yahoo is, after all, a fallen titan of the Internet age. As companies go, Yahoo is barely old enough to drink. Pfizer, on the other hand, is, well, Pfizer: a 150 year old pharmaceutical giant quite possibly best known for giving the world Viagra. What is a "Pfizer problem" and what does it mean for Yahoo to have one? No, it has nothing to do with pharmaceuticals. Rather, it has everything to do with Hank McKinnell.


Hank McKinnell was the CEO of Pfizer from 2001-2006. This was, in retrospect, perhaps not Pfizer's finest period: after five extremely disappointing years, Pfizer's board forced McKinnell into retirement. This was quite the change from 2001 when they couldn't stop shouting his praises. McKinnell, it seems, looked like a great leader in 2001. While looking like a leader may, in fact, be enough to make someone a leader, it isn't enough to make them a good leader. That's a bit more difficult.


Thus we come to Yahoo. From its lofty perch at the pinnacle of the Internet hierarchy in the late 1990s, Yahoo is now something of a has-been. Its search business eaten by Google, its marketplaces by eBay and Amazon.com, Yahoo is struggling. According to the NY Times article, "What Happened When Marissa Mayer Tried to be Steve Jobs," Mayer, the current CEO, has so far failed to actually do more than make cosmetic changes. That's not to say that she hasn't managed to generate a great deal of sound and fury, but her actions have done little to actually turn the company around.


Like Hank McKinnell, Marissa Mayer looks like a great leader. To be clear, she's brilliant and she was a fantastic engineer at Google. But being a CEO is not an engineering problem; it's a people problem. A great leader does more than give lip-service to the concept that people are the company's biggest asset; they live that ideal. Leaders build relationships, they form connections, and they act in ways that cause that web of relationships to spread throughout the company. Marissa Mayer, to much fanfare, eliminated Yahoo's work-from-home policy, a decision which generated a great deal of smoke but only actually affected maybe 1% of the company. It was a distraction. However, since she also built her infant son a private nursery next to her office, it was a distraction that also served to sever, not build, relationships.


Exemplary leaders create commitment by enabling people to trust one another. Unfortunately, Yahoo adopted an employee rating process similar to Microsoft's late and unlamented employee stacking method: team members who received high ratings got huge rewards, people at the bottom were fired. As the NY Times reported, top people at Yahoo did their best to never work together: it's much easier to get a top rating when you surround yourself with weak players. The same thing happened at Microsoft. Furthermore, when the goal is to make sure someone else takes the fall, trust is hard to come by: at Microsoft, engineers sabotaged one another in a variety of subtle ways. Sometimes a leader gets lucky and manages to make an employee stacking system work for a time; that's unfortunate, because then they often think it really is a good system, even after their luck runs out.


The leader is, rather obviously, the person at the top of the company hierarchy. That's more than just a figure of speech: the CEO is in the position to see the furthest. The biggest difference between leaders and managers is scope: how far ahead can you look? Well, the CEO is the person whose job it is to look the furthest. Marissa Mayer likes to dive down into the depths of the code base: this may be a great activity for an engineer, but for the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company employing thousands of people? Details matter, and if you spend too much time on them, it's easy to lose track of the big picture. However, a characteristic of human nature is that we like to do what we're best at and when we aren't sure what to do, we do the things we know how to do. In Marissa Mayer's case, that appears to be focusing on code and data in the areas where she is most comfortable. She's doing what she's trained to do.


Hank McKinnell got booted out of the leadership role at Pfizer because he was doing immense damage and the reasons why he only looked like a leader were not particularly amenable to change. Marissa Mayer has a chance to actually become a great leader and make a difference... but only if she takes the time to learn the right skills to actually become a leader instead of merely looking like one.





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.