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First Impressions
Alignment And All That Jazz
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Twitter Highlights
I send 15-20 tweets per week with links to useful links and research. Here are a few of my latest, including links:

'Stumbled upon Kipling's poem "If" this morning; 'worth a few minutes of your time:

Potentially useful tool for matching talent with jobs

Why big teams suck

You can lead with or without a title. If you wait until you get a title, you may wait forever. 

"Umuntu ngumuntu ngabanatu"- "A person becomes whole through interactions with other persons. I am because we are." (Zulu proverb)

"If I take care of my character my reputation will take care of itself." (D. L. Moody) Hundreds more quuotes at

Linking part of advisers' pay to values and conduct should help reverse Barclay's "cultural deficiencies."

'Seeking more collaboration? Learn from termites; maybe "swarm intelligence" is the answer!

Don't believe everything you read - including management reserch dissertations!

Kudos to Target and it's CEO Steihafel for their efforts to rebuild trust.

On the value of anthropologists to organizations - "irritants in an industrial oyster"

Philips - another good example of strategic thinking and how sustainability yields benefits -

An excellent short piece on strategic thinking and how to develop strategic leaders in organizations  @HarbardBiz 


Social media influencers are becoming companies' biggest influencers.


"Too Many Sorry Excuses For Apology" - 'Enough already with the inauthentic apologies! 


'Better to solve ethical dilemmas in the morning! Time of day affects moral decision making.


How a Firm's Ethical Failure Can Increase Employee Satisfaction @HarvardBiz


"Success on anyone's terms other than your own is failure." (Joe Queenan) 


How Iowa hospitals opt for integrity over incentives and value over volume   


As with the military, the pace of business can "cause neglect of the tools that manage us as a profession over time."     


"We become what we think about all day long." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)     


"The certainty of misery is better than the misery of uncertainty." (Pogo comic strip)  

"The best mind altering drug is truth" (Lily Tomlin)


"I came to see in my time at IBM that culture isn't just one aspect of the game, it is the game."  (Lou Gerstner, former IBM Chair)  


How to build trustworthiness as a competitive advantage


Verbal tics - "performatives," "qualifiers" and "tee-ups" do not make for authentic communication.


 How Unilver is modeling systemic thinking and stewardship



If you missed it, below is a copy of my last blog: First Impressions. The introduction to January's article, Alignment And All That Jazz, follows; you can access the entire article by clicking the link at the end.  Be sure to enter the "Who Said This?" contest at the bottom of this newsletter to win an autographed copy of Navigating Integrity - Transforming Business As Usual Into Business At Its Best.
First Impressions

How do first impressions influence you? For the last few weeks I've been even more sensitive than usual to the their impact, probably because of the wide variation in quality that I experienced. Here are a few recent examples:


We were fortunate to time a stay at our Florida retreat during Minnesota's last cruel winter onslaught. This trip we wanted to spruce up the yard, so knowing little about landscaping in tropical climates we started with a visit to the most established operation in town. When we finally found an employee, she seemed peeved that we interrupted her plant-watering project. She informed us that only the owner could answer our questions, took our phone number and told us that the owner would call us. Since we were already there, we wandered the yard, but got confused by the disorganization and poor labeling of stock. We drove a half-mile to their competitor, Gulf View Landscaping, and were completely drawn in by a very knowledgeable, friendly and service-oriented employee. We returned the next day with sketches of our yard, and she patiently guided us through the process of finding the right trees and shrubs.


Several days later, a recurring back problem flared up and I hoped to find a local orthopedic or health service for relief. The operator at the first clinic that I called, again, sounded like I was an interruption in her day. In no uncertain terms she made it clear that there was no way they could possibly help me; end of conversation. As it turned out, the second resource that I called also couldn't help, but the operator sounded genuinely concerned; she suggested several alternatives and offered their phone numbers. If or when I am in need of health services in that part of Florida again, which provider do you think I will call?


Despite horror stories about the air carrier we used getting to Florida, we had a positive experience that trip. On other occasions, however, we hadn't; the carrier's on-time and service quality is inconsistent, and not surprisingly, Zagat rates it among the ten worst airlines in the world. The day after my return from Florida I flew Sun Country to Michigan; as usual whenever I fly Sun Country, greetings were positive, and the flight was on time, friendly and comfortable. I have only positive memories of Sun Country experiences, and would choose it for all flights if that was an option. (Truth in disclosure: a family member is a Sun Country flight attendant.)


I've walked away from many service establishments never to return, and you likely have too on account of poor initial treatment or impressions; there are usually just too many alternatives. Sometimes a first impression is the last impression.


Here is my advice on ways to convert first impressions into competitive advantage:

  • Recognize its importance; as Will Rogers put it: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
  • Recognize the value of those who deliver first impressions, many of whom are the "unsung heroes" of our businesses: receptionists, operators, clerks, restaurant servers, etc. Accord them the status and credit they deserve, and hire and pay them accordingly.
  • Do some "managing by walking around." When greeted or treated unprofessionally I've often wondered if owners or managers are even aware of their missed opportunities to cash in on positive first impressions. Make sure that you are, and take appropriate action.
  • Measure what matters. In addition to observation by walking around, invest in reliable measures of customer perceptions. Make sure that those who play a role creating first impressions know the scores and take responsibility for keeping them high.
  • Analyze reasons for unsatisfactory first impressions, and take appropriate corrective action. Bob Mager's rubric for analyzing performance problems comes to mind: people don't know what performance is required (tell them,) they don't know how (train them,) they don't want to (improve motivation,) or there are barriers of some kind (remove the barriers.) (Mager, Robert F. and Pipe, Peter. Analyzing Performance Problems - Or, You Really Oughta Wanna; The Center For Effective Performance, 1997)
  • Align staff, structure and systems (including hiring, performance management, training, measures and especially compensation) with your intentions. As Upton Sinclair said: "It's hard to get others to understand something when their salary depends on them not understanding it." No matter what nice customer-centric verbiage is posted, for example, if a service employee's recognition and pay are not connected to it or maybe even incent the opposite, first impressions will suffer.

Oh, by the way: the owner of the first landscape company that we visited did call us back - a week after we purchased and planted our new trees and shrubs from its competitor.


Hats off to all our service providers, especially our "first providers!" Most workers want to know that they make a difference. Let's remind them and remind ourselves just what a big difference they make.



"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."

                                                                Will Rogers


"A thousand words will not leave so deep an impression as a single deed."

                                                                Henrik Ibsen



Photo credits: and Anton Diaz / Flickr



Alignment And All That Jazz

Earlier this month our church sponsored its annual "Jazz Sunday," and I thought about the jazz-like nature of excellent leaders and organizations. I am always struck by the camaraderie, communication and creativity of jazz performances. Ensemble members readily share the lead and support one another; their flexibility and cross-training would be the envy of most teams. Our Sunday's clarinetist and bass players switched places without missing a beat; the trombonist seemed equally at home with his trombone, coronet or any kind of trumpet. (And on other occasions the cello and more!) Communication was seamless; when to start, when to shift and when to end were communicated by exchange of glances and subtle hand signals. Members of the jazz ensemble had played together a number of years, clearly enjoyed making music together and engaged their audience.


Mostly for me, jazz reflects the best kind of alignment in organizations - a combination of structure and discipline coupled with improvisation. There is always some underlying melody, arrangement or beat that is the foundation for jazz. Its distinctiveness, unique value and "magic," however, stem from improvisation; no performance is the same. Playing an arrangement note-by-note might sound OK, but
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Contact inTEgro to explore how we can be of service for strategic planning, senior team and board development or facilitating critical meetings. Click "Services" on our home page to learn more, including inTEgro's array of professional organization, team and leader surveys.

All the best,

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc.
ph: (612) 827-2363

Al Watts
inTEgro, Inc