P4 Advisors

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Culture Change

By John Murashige
Partner, P4 Advisors

“If we can just get them to understand what needs to be done, we’ll get the results we want.”


An organization falls short on delivery of their results. Leadership has determined that a culture change is required to better results. A culture that causes our organization to focus on delivery of our key results will lead to success is the thought. “Let’s get someone to help us with this work.” And so the journey goes.


This pattern often repeats itself every 3-5 years. Why are we caught in this spiral? Maybe we didn’t bring in the right consultant? Maybe this time we’ll get it right? Maybe we didn’t identify what really needed to be changed?


To change the culture of an organization, we must first know what its culture really is. An organization’s culture is a derived directly from its systems, processes, practices, totems, and taboos. Without addressing those factors, an organization’s culture will never change.


“You can bring in the best experts that help organizations lead culture change, but without leadership’s commitment to the necessary changes, any change will be short lived.” In other words, don’t pay for a consultant if you don’t want to make the journey.


What does it take? Let’s look at this from an individual basis. You are who you are based on your family, your friends and your experiences. No one can change you unless there is some new, emotionally impactful experience that you had to live through which changes your perspective.

It is rare that another person, who is coaching you, can make a fundamental change in who you are. Only you can change you. In most cases, you return to your “old self” once they are gone. Why should we think that an organization could be any different? Bottom line, it’s not.


A leader must be committed to the notion that fundamental change is required for business success. Who can help me lead this change? Who will be a “blocker” and must go? What will we celebrate? What will we despise? How will we accomplish the tasks that will lead to success?


What will we be doing differently vs. today? These questions and many more must be answered before embarking on an organizational culture change. Without this fundamental information, you are setting out on a random walk.


Although there are a number of models to help introduce a culture change into an organization, the following are key.

  1. A Driving Desire: There must be some compelling reason to drive an organizational culture change. It could be falling short on desired results, a fundamental shift in the market place, or a compelling new competitor. Whatever the reason, there must be a driving desire in leadership to make a change happen in the organization.
  2. Begin With The End State: What would you see when you are in that new organizational culture? How will your organization be acting? What behaviors will you be celebrating that’s different from today? What behaviors will you be discouraging? Why? Understanding and defining that end state culture you want is a key first step. It will help you identify those things that you want to stop doing now and those new practices that you should be doing.
  3. Make Necessary Changes: As difficult as it might be, a new culture cannot develop and grow with the same people leading your organization. What new skill sets will you need? Who will be an anchor? Address those as quickly as you can as the talent and capabilities you need are out there. Not making necessary leadership changes will only lead to stagnation.

Respect, Dignity, and Meaning in Work

By: William A. Spenla
Managing Director and Founder
P4 Advisors LLC

It is November 2017 and we are reading explosive headlines about allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault by men in leadership roles in the workplace. Did I say November 1967? 1977? 1987? Nope, 2017. Imagine that!
The team at P4 Advisors has many years of experience dealing with the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace, including training, establishment of safe reporting systems, investigation of complaints, and initiation of appropriate corrective action when necessary.
Our approach is to level the playing field and focus on the need for respect, dignity, and meaning in work. Our focus is to help women and men work together as colleagues to promote trust, enthusiastic debate (positive conflict), commitment, and accountability…all of which leads to outstanding personal, professional, and organizational performance.
Successful businesses get results because they work hard at it. Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace requires a commitment from leadership (tone at the top), a connection to the core values of the organization, a contextual business-wide conversation and effective training, and a clear message that sexual harassment at any level in the organization will not be tolerated.

Help Me Understand The Legal Meaning of Sexual Harassment.

In the US, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Experience shows that while most sexual harassment cases involve a man harassing a woman, sexual harassment may also involve persons of the same sex, or a woman harassing a man.
While each case must be evaluated on an individual basis, we can generally say that sexual harassment is any unwanted, unwelcome verbal, non-verbal (visual), or physical advance, request for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature where:
Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; or, Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for making employment decisions affecting such individuals; or, Such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment, or interferes with an individual’s work performance.

So What’s Going on Today?

Clearly, it doesn’t matter the industry or whether it’s the public or private sector, after 50-some years of recognizing what sexual harassment is, knowing how it shatters women’s and men’s careers, and millions spent on training, here we are again reading astonishing headlines. It is hard to fathom.
I try to look at these situations as a son, brother, husband, father, grandfather, son-in-law, brother-in-law, uncle, and coach. You could say that sexual harassment is almost entirely a men’s issue and it will continue to flourish if good men remain silent. I think there is a lot of evidence in that regard.
The good news is there are too many good men in this world to let the scourge of sexual harassment continue to consume the lives of the women we love and befriend. I suggest a three-pronged approach to attack and eradicate this workplace disease, and men need to be present, vocal, and involved. 1) Experiential awareness training. 2) Subject matter comprehension. 3) Everyday application and roles and responsibilities.


I’ve had the good fortune to co-facilitate many prevention of sexual harassment workshops with my women colleagues years ago in a multi-national global business. The workshop participant make-up was almost always 50% men, 50% women and the facilitation format was interactive and experiential.
The focus was on education and awareness about the subject matter and why the elimination of sexual harassment (including discrimination, sexual assault, and rape) in the workplace was part and parcel of the company’s core value, Respect for People. It included specific examples of sexual harassment (see below) the identification of a safe and supportive reporting process one could follow if they felt targeted, and a transparent explanation of how the company would investigate a complaint. We spent time discussing the concept of and differences in intent and impact.
The workshop closed with a definitive review of the corporate policy prohibiting sexual harassment and explained the corrective action consequences for initiating the behavior and/or retaliating against the complainant or witness(es). And we asked everyone to take personal responsibility and continue to enhance their individual competency to prevent sexual harassment in order to promote a business environment of mutual respect.
Hundreds of these workshops were conducted across the corporation and at each worksite, the manager required all employees to attend. This effort helped to significantly level the playing field, shift behavior, and generally, the response from the employee community was positive and appreciative.
Did it result in eliminating sexual harassment? No. Actually, we saw a spike in reported cases following the initial training because, as we were told by complainants, they finally felt empowered to report their situations. But as the organization-wide conversation evolved, we experienced a stabilization, less incidents, and deeper acceptance of the Respect for People core value.


One powerful section of the workshop included the definition of sexual harassment and an acknowledgement that it was not only inappropriate, it was illegal. But when we provided specific examples, attendees came to attention. They clearly wanted guidance. For the women that meant a validation of what they may have experienced and didn’t know what to call it.
For the men, some understood for the first time that a behavior they believed was harmless, was indeed something that required personal change of a repeated habit.
Why is this important now? Because based on the past few months, I think its time to go back to basics and review behaviors that are or lead to sexual harassment. Here are some specific examples of behaviors that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. If you are a man, take a deep breath and consume these behaviors, for example, as if your mother, sister, wife, daughter, or granddaughter was the target.


Threatening or implying that sexual cooperation will have an effect on employment, assignment, compensation, advancement, or other terms and conditions of employment. Making sexually demeaning comments or innuendos.
Using names or labels which others find offensive such as “darling,” “hunk,” “doll,” or “honey.” Making sexual comments about a person’s body, or being overly complimentary, especially about appearances or dress. Turning work discussions into sexual topics. Telling obscene or lewd jokes or stories or making sexual gestures or suggestions.
Asking personal questions about social or sexual life. Repeated and unwanted flirtation, advances, or propositions. Making kissing sounds, howling, or smacking lips. Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life. Use of abusive, threatening, provocative or inflammatory language or gestures, including mental intimidation.


Looking at or “surveying” a person up and down (“elevator eyes”). Staring at someone to intimidate. Deliberately blocking a person’s path. Following (stalking) a person. Giving personal gifts unwanted by the recipient. Displaying sexually suggestive, offensive, explicit, or pornographic visuals and materials such as posters, cards, cartoons, or graffiti, etc.
Using electronic media (e.g., email, internet) to access, create, retrieve, forward, distribute, or post sexually suggestive, offensive, explicit, or pornographic information. The display of internet sites or other media or material or information on computer monitors or radio or television “talk shows” or other broadcasts containing sexually explicit, vulgar, profane, or otherwise offensive language.
Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips. Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements. Pranks, such as exposing underwear. Ignoring or not taking seriously an employee who complains about sexual harassment.


Giving a massage around the neck or shoulders. Touching a person’s clothing, hair, or body when the recipient finds it offensive. Hanging around (invading the space around) a person. Hugging, kissing, patting, stroking, grabbing, or groping a person. Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person. Standing unnecessarily close to or brushing up against a person. Sexual battery, assault, or rape.
These are examples of real-life situations. Other behaviors not listed may rise to the level of sexual harassment. Does your organization have the time and energy to “allow” these power trips to interfere with the goals of your business?


If I am a Recipient of discrimination or harassment, I must respond to it – confront the person and, if that does not work or if it is too difficult, report it.
If I am a Co-Worker, I must recognize it, respond where necessary to assist the recipient and contribute toward building a respectful environment.
If I am a Supervisor, I need to monitor my own behavior in order to set the example and promote the environment expected by the organization, and I need to know what’s going on in my area.
If I am a Manager, I must set an example of personal integrity, hold people who report to me accountable for a respectful environment, and take this issue as seriously as other business objectives, such as customer satisfaction, quality, and other business principles which I manage.
If I am the Leader, I must set the proper tone at the top through my personal behavior and actions, including establishing a bias for prompt and appropriate action when situations are reported, and recognizing individuals who set positive examples to follow.
If I am the Harasser, I must recognize when my behavior is having a negative effect on another person and STOP what I am doing. And, if I am not sure my actions are inappropriate, I have to be sensitive to others and ask.

P4 Advisors Can Help

I hope this has been helpful in gaining a better understanding of the importance of preventing sexual harassment, an interpersonal power access behavior that has No Place in the Workplace. In future articles, we will add more detail about each of the approaches we have described here.
We are always looking to help organizations establish work environments where people can live up to their potential, see greater possibilities, and deliver performance contributions necessary for sustained success.
P4 Advisors would be pleased to consult with you and your team in your efforts to build Respect, Dignity, and Meaning in Work in your organization.

Meeting Management Operations (MMO): A Holistic Approach to Conducting Leadership Team Meetings

By: William A. Spenla
Managing Director and Founder
P4 Advisors LLC

Leadership teams require face-to face meetings on a routine basis to review results, set direction, launch change initiatives, and sustain inter-personal relationships necessary to enhance performance. From senior leadership teams, to global leadership teams, to regional teams, to local leadership teams, the time, effort, attention, resources, and expense to plan and deliver a successful meeting can be daunting.
It is a huge amount of work to plan and successfully facilitate these events, particularly if you’re simultaneously “on your feet” leading the meeting.
P4 Advisors has the demonstrated experience and expertise to help with all facets of your leadership team meeting. We’ve been there and done that. And we understand how to make simple or complex meetings effective, efficient, and cost conscience. Our approach is called Meeting Management Operations, or MMO, because holding a successful leadership team meeting is more than project or meeting planning.
It requires a return-on-investment operational focus from start to finish. We work directly with the meeting sponsor(s), usually the senior leader and her or his designee(s), to assess the overall objective and required outcomes. Then we go to work helping to creating the experience the client is expecting.
Let’s use the example of conducting a global leadership team (GLT) meeting. Generally, the attendee universe for this kind of meeting would include the CEO and her/his direct reports and those in regional commercial and functional leadership roles.
Initially we would assess the strategy for the meeting so we understand the connection to the larger strategic goals of the organization. Questions we might ask include:
◉ What is the need for this meeting? What are you looking to accomplish?
◉ What is the theme? What is it the attendees need to understand and deliver following the meeting?
◉ How does the meeting “fit” with the strategic objectives of the organization?
◉ Was this meeting held in the past? What was the outcome? What improvements were suggested by the attendees and will they be incorporated into this meeting?
◉ What are the upsides to conducting the meeting? The downsides?
◉ Who will set the meeting topics? Will there be a “democratized” pre-meeting input process for topics?
◉ What performance incentives are in place for the meeting sponsor(s)?
◉ What’s the budget? Who pays for what, and how?
◉ What criteria will be used to select attendees? To deny attendance?
◉ Will “High Potentials” be invited if not normally on the attendee list?
◉ Who will announce the meeting and how will that be communicated to the attendees and those not attending?
◉ What pre-work is necessary? When is it due?
◉ How will the meeting results be communicated and cascaded to the organization? Who will do that? Will you communicate progress daily during the meeting, or after it?
◉ How will confidential information be handled and what are the expectations of the attendees in this regard?
Once strategic inquiries are fully examined, we can then make recommendations on a variety of meeting success factors tailored to the sponsor’s objectives. Our experience tells us the following elements are critical to most GLT meetings. For instance:
◉ Allow enough lead time for attendees to clear their schedules and arrange for work to be completed while at the meeting.
◉ What meeting location, and venue, will facilitate a successful meeting outcome? Global headquarters? Regional office sites? Venues near international airports to help keep travel costs down? Facilities for team building in or outside the facility?
◉ How will attendees be grouped during each stage of the meeting? How many people at each table and who sits with whom?
◉ How “full” will the meeting matrix (the intersection of times and dates with the swim lanes of discussion topics and breakouts) be to activate sustainable adult learning vs. overloading participants?
◉ How are the formal sessions interwoven with the informal sessions to foster new and longstanding relationships? When/where is “fun” incorporated?
◉ How will the key leaders (e.g., the CEO) be made available for meeting participants to spend quality face time with her or him?
◉ How will the topics be identified (commercial/functional) and who will do the presenting? What’s the standard format for the presentations?
◉ Will there be handouts issued to participants in advance of each speaker’s presentation to allow the participants to follow along and make notes? Or, not!
◉ What sort of recognition activity will be blended into the meeting? E.g, Leader of the Year?
This is just a small example of the preparation and follow-through required to operationalize a meeting of leaders and maximize the potential for meeting success. And we’ll be there to help the meeting leaders and meeting admin staff to facilitate the session and attend to loose ends as the meeting progresses.
As you can see, Meeting Management Operations is best done by professionals who have had the experience bringing small and large leader groups together. And P4 Advisors would be pleased to help operationalize your leader meetings.
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Got Goals? If You Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Get There.

By: William A. Spenla
Managing Director and Founder
P4 Advisors LLC

We have plenty of experience working with organizations that set solid annual organizational objectives (or goals) and then work diligently to get them understood, connected to, and owned by everyone within the organization. The reason this is so powerful is that people know what they are supposed to do and where they are going. These organizations generally outperform their competition because the human system is immersed in a broad-based plan of action and everyone’s contributions – and their discretionary effort – are pointed toward achieving the goals established by the leadership.
There is no magic formula to setting goals but it is critically important to an enterprise that goals be established. If not done well, you can expect to see plenty of action and activities, and not the performance and results that could otherwise be achieved. Yes, setting goals does take time and perseverance. And yes, it is a much less costly process than the expense incurred as a result of under-performance and failure because the goal setting process is done poorly, or not at all. At P4 Advisors, we get this. And we help our clients to fully understand the importance of goal setting and how to do it well at the organizational and individual levels.
The performance management process begins with the establishment of organizational goals set by leadership to identify what the enterprise is trying to achieve. They should be prioritized, clear and precise, and describe the critical work required for business success. Following this essential leadership action, everyone then has the individual responsibility to set their individual goals (or IG’s) to align with the business goals. We suggest employees initiate IG’s for their manager’s approval, i.e., 3-5 goals, prioritized. Having a stake early on in the process helps to facilitate the mutual understanding of expectations during the performance period. So let’s take a summary look at some IG setting “basics.”
Define what a goal is so that everyone works off the same meaning and framework when constructing their IG’s. For Example:

Goals ARE: Business objectives for employees; The What, Why, How, and When; SMART.

Goals ARE NOT: A job description; Overly detailed; Impossible to meet.

Goals DO: Cascade through and connect up; Leave room for initiative and creativity.

Goals DO NOT: Exist in a vacuum; Limit contribution.

Goals SHOULD: Allow for personal growth; Be realistic and challenging; Be energizing.

Goals SHOULD NOT: Inhibit personal growth; Be impossible; Be demoralizing.

They should be clearly defined and measureable, but not rigid. IG’s are in essence individual performance objectives that are consistent with and support the organization’s goals. They should also include personal and professional development and growth objectives – with a stretch – aimed at improving business results.
IG’s should align directly with the goals of the organization at large, the business and functional units, and the direct (and matrix) manager. So, as mentioned, let’s be

SMART on goal writing and use the SMART template:

SPECIFIC – describe the observable action, behavior, or achievement.

MEASURABLE – indicate how you will measure success in accomplishing your goals.

ACHIEVABLE – provide enough practical stretch for achievement.

RESULTS FOCUSED – define the purpose or benefit of goal accomplishment.

TIME BOUND – develop a practical timeline with urgency.

Stretch is often not understood when it comes to writing goals, yet this aspect of goal writing is one of the most important since it reflects your ability to continuously grow in sync with the growth of the business. Stretch would include the following:
◉ Working in new ways, such as with a regional or global team;
◉ Using your personal influence more broadly;
◉ Taking on visible projects that are optional and worthwhile;
◉ Learning a new language in sync with your development plan.
And you’ll want to use action-oriented, strong words in your goal descriptions, such as develop, improve, produce, and generate. And avoid words such as try, strive, pursue, and nurture.
Here are some examples of effective goal writing for you to consider:
◉ Increase the quality performance of my team through a 15% reduction in rework by the end of the second quarter.
◉ Generate 10 new clients that will produce an increase in sales performance by 25% YOY.
◉ By year-end, identify, adopt, introduce and implement a new simplified and effective performance management system that links pay directly to performance, eliminates wasteful energy, and is owned by the line organization.
◉ Lead my team in creating 2 new products that will generate $50,000.00 each in sales volume by year-end and add $10,000 to the annual bonus pool.
Goal setting summary…Take ownership for writing your goals by securing the needed business information that will connect what you’ll be doing to what the business expects you to do. Invest adequate time to create effective goals that are meaningful to you, your manager(s), and the business. Be proactive in scheduling time with your manager to discuss your goals. Track your progress throughout the performance period. And document the progress on your goals on a routine basis with your manager(s).
That’s just some of the basics to goal setting and writing. Obviously there is much more breadth and depth to doing these things just right in order to set up a win-win for the business and all those contributing to it. And we’d be pleased to spend a few hours with you walking you through the step-by-step goals setting process we have developed. Just give us a call and we’d be pleased help you out.

GOT GOALS? Then you’ll get there.

Can We Really Fix Dysfunctional Teams?

AUTHOR ATTRIBUTION: A BRIGHT SPOT ON COACHING, LEADERSHIP, AND DEVELOPMENT: We’re fortunate to be on the distribution list for the Kashbox Coaching Newsletter. The authors, David Herdinger and Joan Walsh produce terrific work that is some of the best you’ll read on a variety of timely topics.

Organizations waste vast amounts of time, effort and money each year by failing to recognize or correct dysfunctional teams.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers study of 200 global companies across various sectors―involving more than 10,000 projects―found less than 3% successfully completed their plans. Similar research reveals 60%–70% project failure rates. In the United States alone, IT project failures cause estimated losses of up to $150 billion per year.

Dysfunctional teams cannot be blamed for all business failures, but they play a major role in unsuccessful projects and missed goals. In his acclaimed bestseller, organizational consultant Patrick Lencioni identifies The Five Dysfunctions of a Team:

◉ Absence of trust
◉ Fear of conflict
◉ Lack of commitment
◉ No accountability
◉ Lack of attention to results
Leaders must address these dysfunctions if their teams are to have any chance of success.
“The true measure of a team is that it accomplishes the results that it sets out to achieve. …It requires levels of courage and discipline―and emotional energy―that even the most driven executives don’t always possess.” ~ Patrick Lencioni, (Jossey-Bass, 2002)

1. Absence of Trust

Trust is the foundation for all human interactions and the key to a functional team. Lack of trust is the core dysfunction, the one that leads to all other problems.
Several group behaviors demonstrate distrust. Team members may have low confidence in others. They may fear that any sign of personal weakness could be used against them. Consequently, people are unwilling to be vulnerable, transparent or open when exchanging ideas or expressing their feelings. Those who avoid exposure to criticism resist asking for help and hesitate before offering it to others.

A lack of trust creates defensiveness in team members, notes leadership consultant Roger M. Schwarz in Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Defensive team members feel the need to protect themselves, he explains in “Get a Dysfunctional Team Back On Track” (Harvard Business Review).

An absence of trust undermines the relationships team members need to work together successfully. Without trust, there’s insufficient communication, cooperation and participation. Leaders who want to rebuild trust can try the following strategies:

Vulnerability: Create an environment in which team members can safely feel vulnerable. Draw out people’s personal experiences by sharing your own stories, thereby setting the proper tone and lowering barriers. Recognize that it takes determination and resolve to restore trust.

Honest Feedback: Team members must learn how to provide feedback. Acknowledging and affirming others with constructive feedback set the stage for positive reinforcement and encouragement. Consistent, honest feedback can then become habitual, which fortifies trust.

Authenticity: Practice humility to tear down walls. If you and your team can admit that you don’t know everything, the experience will be freeing. Remind the team that everyone is in the same boat, everyone is in the process of learning, and no one has all the answers. Each member contributes to the group’s problems and solutions.

Integrity: Model integrity in group dynamics. Everything you do is magnified and often copied. When you “walk the talk,” others will follow your example. Integrity and trust become contagious. Noble character (doing what’s right for each other) reduces defensiveness and distrust.

2. Fear of Conflict

Lack of trust within a team easily leads to fear of conflict, confrontation, criticism and/or reprisal. When teammates and leaders are seen as potential threats, people adopt avoidance tactics. This sets up an artificial harmony that has no productive value. There is no true consensus, just a risk-preventing sentiment of “yes” feedback. True critique is avoided. Genuine solutions are not explored, and the team functions poorly.
This dynamic allows a domineering team member to take over, with a unilateral-control mentality. Dominant personalities believe they’re always correct, and anyone who disagrees is wrong and disloyal. Independent ideas are stifled. Negative feedback creates discomfort. People’s spirits and self-esteem eventually plummet, crippling group performance.
As a leader, you must teach your team that discomfort is sometimes part of the job. People need to get used to feeling uncomfortable, to some degree. It’s part of doing business and a key dynamic among coworkers.
Conflict-resolution training can help you encourage productive debate without hurting feelings or wounding character. Trust grows, and difficult ideas can be processed to reach consensus on solutions. Once again, it’s up to you to set an example by developing this vital leadership skill.
It’s just as important to recognize when you and your team members are agreeing too quickly and to assess whether consensus is authentic. Teams often avoid discomfort by falling into “groupthink;” instead of debating solutions, members “go along just to get along.”

3. Lack of commitment

When teams lack trust and fear conflict, they’re likely to avoid commitment. We focus on self-preservation and maintaining amicable relationships. As we attempt to avoid confrontation, we stop listening to others’ concerns. Discussions become superficially polite.
Most people can sense when someone isn’t listening to their ideas or questions. This single dynamic―often subtle―will shut down team engagement and commitment, and tension continues to grow.
Teammates who are cut off or ignored feel left out. They’re less committed to team effort, so they’re unlikely to “get with the program.” It becomes difficult for a team to move forward amid stalled decisions or incomplete assignments. Enthusiasm for projects takes a nosedive, and confrontations become commonplace. Some members even stop caring about whether the team succeeds.
Lack of commitment also becomes a problem when you fail to convey clear goals or direction. People are left to wonder what they’re supposed to do, and the team’s success is no longer their top priority. They mentally check out and just start going through the motions.
You can reestablish commitment by prompting team members to ask questions. When you invite dialogue, teammates learn more about each other. They’ll see others’ intentions, attitudes, motives and mindsets more clearly, eliminating the need to guess or assume.
Successful team leaders solicit all opinions, positions and ideas, while affirming those who offer them. They make a point of considering all input, which conveys a sense of worthiness to team members.
When teams have clear plans and directions, members become infused with confidence and commitment. People want to be led in ways that assure success and fulfillment.

4. No Accountability

If you fail to reverse a lack of commitment, dysfunctions will intensify. Team members will lose their sense of accountability. If there’s little buy-in, there’s no desire to meet obligations, follow directions or help others. This is most common in environments where progress isn’t adequately assessed and definitive project schedules don’t exist.
When directions are unclear and roles are ill defined, people have less impetus to account for their performance or progress. In extreme cases, progress is not even possible. Lack of clarity has people confused, frustrated or apathetic. There can even be uncertainty as to who is on the team. Members may shift on or off, or have duties reversed, dropped or unspecified. People will have no sense of interdependency, and the team’s reason for existence is lost.
Work toward establishing clear directions, standards and expectations. All team members need to work with the same information set at all times. Realistic, understandable schedules help drive activities and allow work flow to meet interconnected goals.
Activity tracking methods should clearly report which tasks are on time and which are late. Corrective action plans should make the necessary adjustments and redirect activities accordingly. Accountability can be restored under inclusive project management. People will want to avoid letting down their boss and each other.

5. Inattention to Results

Without team accountability, the criticality of group success is lost in the shuffle. Self-preservation and self-interest trump results in a climate of distrust and fear. Your inability to track results leaves you with no way to judge ongoing success or failure, progress or pitfalls. No one is praised for good results, and no one is corrected for the lack thereof. As this trail of dysfunction reaches its fatal end, it won’t be long before the team is disbanded.
This type of team scenario is logged as yet another failure. Leaders who allow this to happen may not be capable of learning from their mistakes, and their ability to prevent similar results in the future is severely compromised.
Effective project management methods must track progress toward intermediate and final goals. Affirm team members (and their interdependence) through their accomplishments and struggles. This draws them together and lets them know they’re valuable to the organization, team and, ultimately, themselves.
Working through issues and encouraging people to provide candid responses foster the discipline needed to reverse a trail of dysfunction. Your people will focus less on self-preservation and more on the group’s efforts to achieve common goals.
The process begins with trust. If you establish trust from the start, you’re on the road to minimizing dysfunctions. Even if your team is deeply entrenched in a project before trust is built, it’s not too late to assess functioning. Take advantage of continuing-education opportunities, leadership training and executive coaching to help prevent dysfunction pitfalls.
Team coaching is also recommended, as it teaches skills and tactics for contributing to organizational success, thereby reversing any longstanding trends of project failure.

Growing Better Leaders: 5 Developmental Stages

AUTHOR ATTRIBUTION: A BRIGHT SPOT ON COACHING, LEADERSHIP, AND DEVELOPMENT: We’re fortunate to be on the distribution list for the Kashbox Coaching Newsletter. The authors, David Herdinger and Joan Walsh produce terrific work that is some of the best you’ll read on a variety of timely topics.

The increasingly complex and chaotic marketplace poses an urgent need to grow better leaders. Companies that seek to maintain competitive advantages require strong leadership.
Leaders remain confused, however, about how to strengthen their competencies. Formal training and higher education haven’t sufficiently prepared them for all of the 21st century’s disruptive innovations and global challenges. While some leaders thrive, others barely survive. Many of today’s executives feel as though they’re in over their heads.
In their quest to unlock leadership potential, organizations invest millions in assessments, training programs and executive coaching. These investments seem to pay off, at least for a while. But for long-term growth, organizations must understand leadership’s developmental stages.

How Leaders “Grow Up”

Like all maturing adults, leaders progress through sequential developmental levels. At each stage, adults gain greater awareness and cognitive capacities. Similarly, leadership effectiveness improves as one develops, matures and expands consciousness.
At the higher stages of development, leaders become more successful and their businesses enjoy greater results. With increased leadership effectiveness, there’s a 38% probability of seeing higher business performance, according to one study. A 38% leverage is well beyond most companies’ profit margins, so developing capable leaders should be a priority.
Developmental-stage theory is relatively new and even more cutting-edge when applied to leadership programs. Rather than focusing on training, skills and knowledge, it involves expanding one’s mindset and “forms of mind” (defined by New Zealand leadership coach Jennifer Garvey Berger as our changing capacity to cope with complexity, multiple perspectives and abstraction).
Yet, few leadership-development initiatives address the inner game: how leaders perceive, find meaning, make decisions and handle complexities.

Robert J. Anderson and William A. Adams, authors of Mastering Leadership: An Integrated Framework for Breakthrough Performance and Extraordinary Business Results (Wiley, 2015), applied developmental-stage theory to create the Leadership Circle Profile, a 360° assessment tool that measures leaders’ developmental stages. Founders of The Leadership Circle consultancy, they also developed The Universal Model of Leadership.

Similarly, William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs use developmental-stage theory as the foundation for Leadership Agility 360°, their 360° assessment tool, as explained in Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change (Jossey-Bass 2007).
These assessment tools are based on decades of psychological studies and are designed to accurately measure leadership effectiveness and identify a leader’s developmental stage. More than descriptive, the stages point to leadership behaviors that help target how to coax a leader to the next level.
By identifying stages of progressive development, we can create behavioral action plans and use coaching to expand a leader’s form of mind and modify behavior. Progressive organizations have adopted this strategy to promote leadership agility.

Foundations of Developmental Theory

Developmental theories have been around for decades, based on 50 years of psychological research into how adults mature. Organizational psychologists have since applied the basic tenets to leadership development. Their conclusions are summarized here:
1. Just as children improve their cognitive capacities with age, so do adults.
2. Adults, however, develop according to needs and opportunities, not because of age.
3. Not all adults progress through all stages.
4. Some adults can function only at lower levels of development. A small percentage attains higher levels of awareness, wisdom and compassion.
5. As leaders progress through developmental levels, they expand their mental and emotional capacities and become increasingly skilled at handling complexity.
6. Each stage describes a form of mind: a way of thinking about responsibility, conflicts, perspective and assumptions (about self, others and the world).
7. Leaders may operate partially at one stage and occasionally at the next, but return to old habits before transitioning.
8. Transitioning requires changing one’s previous assumptions to expand consciousness.
9. Leaders who function at higher developmental stages produce significantly improved business results.
10. Knowing a leader’s developmental level, coupled with behavioral action plans and coaching, provides a measure of competitive advantage or disadvantage.

Levels of Leadership

The following table explains how four leadership experts define levels of leadership behaviors and mindsets. Unfortunately, there is no uniform agreement on vocabulary, which has created a confusing array of names and definitions.
Please note: The rows of stages aren’t equal; that is, while there may be some similarities, the stages are not defined as equivalent to others across rows.)
Using a broad brush, we can summarize the various stages of leadership development as follows:

Level 1: Leaders who operate at the first stage of development are focused on their own need to excel, which explains why it’s referred to as an Egocentric, Opportunist or Expert stage. These leaders are acutely aware of what they need to do to succeed and how they must be perceived by others. Leadership at Level 1 therefore tends to be autocratic and controlling. A leader’s mindset is limited at this stage because there’s no shared reality. Growth requires one to become aware of, and interested in, other people’s needs and to reach out co-relationally. This is a normal developmental stage for young adults, but ineffective for leaders (although 5% appear to operate at this stage).

Level 2: Leaders’ abilities to simultaneously respond to their personal needs and those of others is the hallmark of Stage 2, referred to as the Socialized or Reactive mindset by some, and the Diplomat or Achiever stage by others. At this stage, a leader plays by the organization’s rules and expectations and builds alliances, but with a focus on how to best get ahead. One’s emphasis is on the outer game to gain meaning, self-worth and security.Leaders hone their strengths, but are nonetheless limited by them. At this stage, identity is defined from the outside-in and requires external validation in one of three ways: relationship strength, intellect, or results. Leaders fall into three categories at Level 2: Complying, Protecting or Controlling (reflecting over-dependence on heart, head or will). When self-worth and identity depend on overused strengths, growth is self-limited, as behavioral options are restricted. Most leaders (nearly 75%, as with most adults) operate at this second level of maturity.

Level 3: Referred to as the Creative, Self-Authoring, Individualist or Catalyst stage, Level 3 is marked by personal transformation from old assumptions/beliefs and a quest for external validation to a more authentic version of the self. These leaders want to know who they truly are and what they care most about. They’re on a path to becoming visionary leaders, accepting that authenticity carries a risk of disappointing others, potential failures and hazards associated with contradicting accepted norms. Leaders trade their need to be admired for a higher purpose. They don’t feel the need to be the hero and begin to share power. No longer the sole decision-makers, Level 3 leaders encourage groups to become more self-managing and meaningfully involved in organizational success. They focus on high performance through teamwork and a desire to develop others. Their leadership is truly collaborative. About 20% of leaders operate with a Level 3 mindset.

Level 4: Called the Integral, Transforming Self, Strategist and Co-Creator stage, Level 4’s hallmark is one’s ability to focus not only on an organizational vision, but the welfare of the larger system in which a company operates. Servant leadership emerges, as one considers more interdependent components and systemic complexities.

Level 5:  Level 5 is referred to as Unitive, Alchemist and Synergist. At this level, leaders expand perspectives even further, focusing on higher purpose and common good. Beyond this level other stages may be unexplored, as very few leaders grow past the fourth level. To some theorists, Level 5 encompasses a spiritual focus.

Heroic and Post-Heroic Stages

The first two levels are based on leaders’ ability to hold themselves out as heroes, providing answers and solutions. But operating with this mindset means you’re intent on meeting your own needs, including wanting to be the recognized expert, achieving results and being admired.
Great leadership and business performance emerge at the “post-heroic” stages. In the top 10% of the highest-performing businesses (out of a half million surveyed), the average leadership effectiveness score falls into the 80th percentile, research shows. These leaders score better than 80% of their peers.
When you can transition to the third stage (Creative, Self-Authoring, Catalyst), you no longer have an externally based self-worth. At this point, you aim for a higher purpose, are willing to share power, and can let go of previous assumptions and your hero complex.

Surging Past the Norm

Most adults fail to progress beyond what’s normative: the Socialized or Reactive mind. Only 10% of adults progress beyond the Achiever level, according to the Leadership Agility authors:
Leadership Agility

Surging Past the Norm

Viewed from The Leadership Circle research, only 20% progress beyond the Reactive stage, which points to the urgent need for leadership-development programs to address far more than skills and outer competencies.

Why All of This Matters

At higher levels of development, leaders can detect nuances, deal with paradoxes and respond with agility in lieu of being reactive. Today’s volatile business environment demands higher levels of consciousness.
Developmental-stage theories are more than descriptive tools. The stages chart a path that can help leaders develop more complex forms of mind. The framework also helps match a leader’s mindset at any given time with that required by a particular task.
As they progress from one level to the next, leaders expand their strengths and abilities. They can grow into the next developmental stage, recognizing there will be a learning curve and inherent challenges.

“Leaders with different forms of mind will have different capacities to take the perspectives of others, to be self-directed, to generate and modify systems, to manage conflicts, and to deal with paradox.” ~ Jennifer Garvey Berger Changing on the Job: Developing Leaders for a Complex World, Stanford Business Books, 2011

As a leader, your ability to make sense of greater levels of complexity continues throughout the lifespan and has a significant impact on both leadership and development. You acquire special competencies and skills with experience, as well as a mind that sharpens over time. Only when leadership development programs take developmental stages into account will you grow into a better leader.

This content was originally published by Kashbox Coaching authors David Herdinger and Joan Walsh.